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March Newsletter

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor

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Forgotten and Unattended Cemeteries - by Carol Sanderson

        There are many of us who at one time or another, have searched and searched for ancestors, and have almost decided that they vanished in time, just to make our genealogy search one of difficulty. We probably know a lot about them and either give up on looking for their death and burial place or put it aside for a while or resolutely continue hunting using what clues we might have available.

        We hear of, or find, neglected cemeteries all over this country, and most often they are family plots associated with a family home that has been abandoned, and fallen into decay. However, they can also be graveyards where there was once a church and are now left standing, unused and forgotten. There are organizations and individuals who form movements who are beginning to try to save these places from being completely obliterated by time but more often by man. We have, in the Community Pages here, some things about several forgotten gravesites and what some people are doing to try to help remember the people buried there 1 . The movement seems to be taking shape throughout the country...that is to Adopt-a-Cemetery.

        It was suggested that Members of the Genealogy Community could possibly do a "look-up" or two...sort of a genealogical bio, as "our gift" to unknown ancestors... I was then asked what I meant by genealogical an hypothetical situation. This was my answer:

        If I see a name (example) Moses Sanderson on a stone in say Canton, NY that says 1780 to 1839. What can I find other than he lived in the Canton area. I might through searching other stones find some of his family...that is if I could read the slate stones that the weather has severely damaged. By going to land records I might find that he was a farmer with a goodly amount of land. I might take a wild guess as to church affiliation and find church records. If there are five or so churches in town...that might take some hunting. I still don't know where he was born or who his parents are.

        I chose NY state particularly, as it is a hard state in which to search. The case is one from my husband's genealogy and I had it easy in that I was working in reverse order. I knew his parents etc., I even knew his wife but I found another adult female in the same family plot who doesn't belong to that family. How did this individual come to be burried here? She wasn't his wife, she wasn't his mother-in-law, although her age indicates that she could have been.

        We work from the known to the unknown. We search records of all kinds to find what we can. Sometimes we make educated guesses and then have to verify if we can what we have assumed.

        In many states vital record keeping doesn't begin until after the Civil War, and in another state where I have family for whom I was searching, the vital records do not start until 1921. Of course there are other ways to search...other than vital records. We don't néed to find out everything about the dead in unknown cemeteries. I think that just finding some of these and recording stones might be a good beginning.

        In my previous example, some of the slate stones were flat on the ground and grass and moss had started to grow over them. One hears of doing rubbings to bring out the writing. That is one way but it really isn't approved of as that can harm the stones also. I had to pull grass away and using my fingers, as in reading Braille, read that stone.

Finding People in the Un-indexed Census - by Charles Hansen

        Since the 1930 census will be out in April (2002) many people will be trying to find their ancestors or even themselves in the census, but will the fact that only about sixteen southern states are soundexed discourage, a lot of people from using the 1930 census?

        The 1910 census was only partially soundexed also; so techniques learned in searching the 1910 census can be used with the 1930 census. If your ancestor lived in the country, it is relatively simple to find them as the number of pages you have to look through probably will be small. However, if they lived in a city there may be several rolls of microfilm to look through. The National Archives has a microfilm that lists the boundaries of the enumeration districts for each census and from this you can draw a map of the enumeration district and cut down the number of pages you have to search.

        In searching for my dad and grandfather, I knew they had moved from Minnesota to Montana in 1910. I did not know if they would be in the Montana census or the Minnesota census. I knew they moved to Columbus which was in Yellowstone County in 1910. In checking the film, I found that the enumerators had used the school district boundaries when they went out and collected data. I asked my dad which school district he went to, and he said school district #6. Checking that school district, I did not find him, but did find several people that he had talked about and a couple that married into the family. Later, I checked the Minnesota census and found them still on the farm near Sebeka in Wadena County. It was and is a farming area and has few people so finding him there was easy.

        Searching in a city is much harder since there are so many more people. I do quite a lot of searches for people in the Spokane 1910 census which consists of 3 rolls of microfilm. One for the county is divided into townships and each are fairly easy to find people. The city consists of two rolls of microfilm. When I am searching for someone in the city, I first look for their address in the 1911 city directory. Why the 1911 city directory? I have learned from experience that is the address that I find most people in the 1910 census. I was told that the city directory people were in Spokane in 1910 collecting data for the 1911 city directory, and that is when the census was taken. In Spokane the enumerators used voting precincts for their boundaries. I made a map of each voting precinct using a high-lighter to mark the boundaries. With the address I check the map and find which voting precinct to look in. The enumerator would go down one street at a time so I look for the street and address of the person for whom I am looking.

        Does this seem like a lot of work to find your ancestor? Sure, but it is important to find your ancestors in all the censuses. Since the 1930 is mostly un-indexed, any technique that helps will save you a lot of time looking. The National Archives is collecting as many city directories as they can find to help people in the cities. I guess they know that finding people is much easier if you know the address where they lived. After you find the address, check the census film to see how they collected the data, and then find those boundaries. It may be precincts, it may be school districts, or just the enumeration districts; but what ever was used, find those boundaries to cut down the number of pages to search.

Recommended reading & viewing:
US Census Bureau - United States Department of Commerce

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