06 April 2012

1940 Census: Use the Hype to Talk to Your Family

Two days ago, I was pleased to learn about my grandfather and his parents, aunts and uncles using new clues provided through the 1940 Census. I did not know that Grandpa was a hired hand on a neighboring ranch in Nebraska as a young man, I did not know that Great-Grandpa and Grandma rented their ranch, rather than owning it outright. Interesting little tidbits for my research. Nothing that was overwhelmingly surprising, just new small facts that could lead me down different roads in the future.

Naturally, I sent a quick email to my Mom and her siblings outlining the basics of what I had found. I knew they would have heard about the census release through the news, but also knew that none of them would stop to look it up for themselves. I'm the family genealogist; that's my job, and one I enjoy.

This morning, I received a reply from one of my Aunt's, who lives in Alabama. She informed me for the first time that our cousins have a family Bible, that Grandpa also worked on his uncle's ranch at some point, and a few other little pieces that I had never heard before. How could I possibly have been doing this for over a decade and not known there was a family Bible out there?  Even more, it's about a two hour drive from my house to the cousins who own it. Oh, my.

Lesson learned. It had just never come up. I have talked to this side of the family before about our ancestry, but it was years ago. What can I learn if I bring up the conversation again, asking new questions?

So, use the census. Look up your images, find your folks. And then share. Tell your family what you are doing, what you are finding. See if it will open up new doors for you, too.