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Family Tree Friday: Getting Started With Census Records, Part 2

by on June 11, 2010


Last time I showed you how I used the 1930 census to get started on my own family history research. Today, I’m going to show you what I was able to find using some of the earlier census records.

Since Nannie Crozier and her family were living in Collin County, Texas in 1930, I started my search for the 1920 census there. I found Nannie listed as the head of household again, this time at age 65. As in 1930, her daughter and her son-in-law, Mary and Charles Covington, were living with her. Nannie’s brother-in-law was also living with her – James Crozier was 70 years old in 1920, so he was born around 1850. Aside from picking up her brother-in-law, I didn’t really learn anything additional.

In the 1900 census, however, I did learn some interesting things. Again, Nannie was the head of the household, so her husband died sometime before this, but we don’t know when. Her brother-in-law James was living with her, as were her three daughters: Mamie (or Mary), Emma, and Lula.

While the questions in the different census years are similar, the 1900 census is notable for a couple of questions specific to that year. First, women were asked how many children they have had, and how many were still living. In Nannie’s case, she indicated that she had three children, all of whom were still living. Of course, this question may have been a painful reminder of something a woman who had recently lost a child would like to forget, and you may find discrepancies here. But sometimes the answer can give you clues.

Second, the 1900 census asks for the month and year of birth, rather than just the age of the individual. So now I know that Nannie was born in January 1855. This is much more exact than “approximately 1855.” I also know when her daughters were born – Mamie was born in October 1877, Emma in January 1880, and Lula in December 1881.

1920 census Crozier

Knowing the months and years could lead me to a birth certificate. Because birth records and other vital statistics are not federal records, they are held at the state or local level. I won’t be able to find them in our holdings, but this has given me a great starting place for further research.

Next time I’ll show you what I found in the 1880 and earlier census records, including the name of Nannie’s husband.

Census records are available on microfilm, as well as online at Ancestry.com and Footnote.com.


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