In the 1940 census, I could not locate my relatives where I knew they had to be. I had their correct address from a 1940 city directory, so I knew they lived at 4444 River Rd. I had the correct ED and block number, so excitedly I find 4439 River Rd., then 4440, 4442, and then the enumerator went on to the next block, skipping 4444 and 4446! Agh! Disappointedly, I asked my mother (who used to work for the Census Bureau) what their instructions would have been if they realized that something had been skipped. She said to look at the last page of the ED and see if the missed addresses were added there. They were!
I just thought I would share this since it seems this seems to have been a fairly common occurrence.
One of the best parts about my job is how often I come in contact with historic locations. Most of these places I never dreamed I’d be fortunate enough to see outside the pages of a history book. Twice, in the last five years, I have had the opportunity to work with artifacts and locations that were directly linked to the Titanic. My first experience with this infamous ship came when I was brought in to work with artifacts that were recovered from the wreck. These pieces, collected from the ocean floor, were believed to be haunted by those who died in the disaster. I will be the first to say that I nerded out a bit over the opportunity. My second encounter with the Titanic came when I was sent to a little seaport town called Cove for work.
In November of 2010, I had found myself in southern Ireland boarding a small fishing boat. We were headed out to work for the night on an island just off the coast of Cove. Once aboard, I noticed this old, rotting pier that jetted out into the water in front of a yellow, weather-beaten building. This building displayed a sign that read, “Titanic Bar Restaurant” and sat adjacent to our pier. After asking one of the locals with us, I learned that Cove, once known as Queenstown, was the last port of call for the Titanic.
On April 11, 1912, 123 passengers used that old, rotting pier to board the Titanic before it headed out for its ill-fated, maiden voyage. Three days later, just before midnight on April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Within a few hours, in the early morning of April 15, this enormous ship sank, taking with it 1,517 out of the 2,228 lives on board. Out of the 123 passengers who boarded in Cove, only 44 would survive.
A century later, the Titanic is still considered one of the greatest maritime disasters in history. We all know about the disaster and the number of people who died, but who were the men, women and children that made up those figures? With help from the new Titanic Collection on Ancestry.com, we are now able to get a better look at who these passengers and crewmembers were. Through this collection of scanned original passenger lists, crew records, fatality reports and coroner’s records the passengers become more then just a number. Becoming aware of the passengers personal details makes this event less about cold statistics. It makes us turn our attention to what made the Titanic such a historic tragedy; the large loss of life.
I will never forget the sadness I felt while looking at that timeworn pier in Cove. I could imagine the people waiting, excited to board the enormous luxury liner that was believed to be unsinkable. The whole town must have turned out; thrilled to welcome this massive history making ship to their seaport. I also found it difficult to shake the eerie feeling I got as we set out on our little boat. For some, on April 11, 1912, this same colorful seaport skyline would be the last town they’d set their feet and eyes on.
My mother was born prematurely in October 1919, in Seattle, Washington. Her mother, Estella, had been under a doctor’s care for a month prior to death per her death certificate. Estella died in the hospital at the age of 28, just two weeks after the birth, of complications typically seen with the notorious Spanish flu. The epidemic struck Seattle in 1918, and a year later was still victimizing the most vulnerable populations.
My grandfather was suddenly widowed and left with a fragile newborn and two other daughters, ages eight and four. It was a terrible scenario and I wish the stories of how they managed had been passed down, but my family was not one to look back at a number of painful memories. Most of it was left for me to uncover as a genealogist. The 1920 U.S. census gave me a surprising and poignant insight into this family tragedy.
The census was taken approximately two months after my grandmother’s death. It was sobering to see my grandfather and the three girls listed, and also his mother, a native of San Francisco, who must have been brought in to help. But when I gave it all a more careful look some time later, I was surprised to find there was a second family listed at the same address. It was Estella’s brother, wife, and their two children—ages six and eight.
I have since found and visited this still-existing bungalow. (As your valuable Census Tips indicate, the addresses are noted along the side of the form.) The extended family was living on top of one another in response to such a crisis. My two young aunts must have been overwhelmed . Their mother never came home, and was replaced by a needy infant and an infusion of family members. Without the U.S. census, I would never have known about this. Many human stories like this one are waiting to be found within the records of the 1940 U. S. Census.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Finding someone in the 1940 Census
I want to find George Canavan in 1940 in Pittsburgh, possibly on 1919 Warren St. But Pennsylvania is HUGE and I don’t know where to start. I’m impatient and really want to find something. Help me!
— Jolene Worth
Help is on the way. Let’s lay this out in steps, so we can repeat them later.
Step 1: Street Address Find a street address if you can. In rural areas this may not be as necessary, but in cities such as Pittsburgh it is a must unless you want to search tens of Enumeration Districts and thousands of pages.
But we have a possible address, so let’s go with that. First, I look up the address on a map program so I know cross streets.
Step 2: Find the enumeration district. On the 1940 Census home page, you’ll find tools to help narrow your search. I chose “Already know the cross streets?” I choose Pennsylvania, Allegheny, and Warren for the the street. Then I choose Rising Main Ave and Lanark.
Be warned…this works most of the time, but sometimes, the ED is wrong and you have to try other combinations.
Step 3: Examine the enumeration district.Let’s go to Enumeration District 69-712:
First then we need to do is find the image with the correct street. Go to the Image Controls under Actions and Rotate Right so that you can easily see the street names:
Choose Rotate right and zoom in so you can read the street names, and starting paging through to find Warren.
We find 1919 Warren St on Page 12 and find George Canavan. Be warned…lots of people have been finding the address only to find that the people they are looking for have moved. But you don’t know if you don’t look.
Step 4. Examine the image:
So what do we see on the census? We know that George owned his own home, and it was worth $1200 and it wasn’t a farm. If you move over to the Education column, column 14 has an “H-4” in it which tells us that George completed 4 years of high school. Column 15 tells us he was born in Pennsylvania.
Columns 17-19 tell us that the family lived in the same place in 1935. That XOXO in Column D tells us that “Same Place” is a legitimate place to have lived in 1935.
Employment information can be found in columns 21-33. You’ll notice that George worked 32 hours the previous week (Column 26), he was a Crane man in a Steel Mill and he was a paid worker (Columns 28-30) and he worked 52 weeks in 1939 and earned $1200. (Columns 31 & 32).
You will also notice that George’s wife was asked supplemental questions. And the circled x next to Alice’s name means that she was the one who supplied this information to the enumerator.
If you look down at the bottom of the census image, you will see the supplemental lines (there are two on every image). The most interesting part here might be that she was 18 when she was first married, it was her first marriage and that she had 2 children.
Make sure you read the image completely when you finally find it! The information may just confirm what you already now, but the bits of information about education and income give you a picture of the family’s life in 1940.
Throughout my life my mother reminded me what a very bright child I was when I was very young. One story she told was that at 18 months old, I would go shopping for her every day to purchase a bottle of milk. It consisted of walking down a flight of stairs in the apartment building on Ten Eyck Walk in Brooklyn, and going around the building to a grocery store. After her death, I visited the area in Brooklyn. It is a large complex of apartment buildings known as Williamsburg Housing. Walking around the area, I concluded the only address that fit my mother’s story was 151 Ten Eyck Walk. It had a convenience store attached to it, and from a second story apartment it would be possible for my mother to follow me as I walked around the building.
The 1940 census was released Monday and by the evening, Ancestry.com had New York State on its website. I went to the enumeration district that included Williamsburg Housing and there was the Mokotoff family—address 151 Ten Eyck Walk. Furthermore, judging from the position in the list of families, it was likely that we lived on the second floor.
Happy Friday, and it is a good one here in the land of everything family history! As of early this morning all of the 1940 images are live! Over 3.8 million images are now available to view. In addition, we have our first two indexes rolled LIVE as well on the site. Now you can search through Nevada and Delaware using a person’s name, not just page through the images.
So who besides me is making an appointment with their eye doctor for tired eyes? Wow, those enumeration district (ED) maps can take a toll. But how fun is it to zero in on the place where your family lived and then find them in those amazing records? That feeling of satisfaction from the thrill of the hunt is multiplied when we get to learn about our family during that pivotal time in history—between the Great Depression and World War II. As I was reminded in one of our Live Look-up Chats, this census offers a parting glimpse of so many heroes who went off to fight, and ended up dying for our country. For these and many more reasons, it’s so important for us to find our family and preserve their memories. So let’s get to it.
First Up, Finding Addresses on ED Maps without Going Insane
OK, so as I mentioned, my eyes are threatening to leave their sockets unless I find a better way to search these ED maps. One thing I’ve started doing is pretty basic and some of you may already be doing this. I’m pulling up the address on a current map site, like Google maps. I search for the address and note surrounding streets and any landmarks that will help me find the spot on the ED maps.
Once I’ve gotten my bearings in the close up shot, I zoom out to see the wider area. Getting this perspective helps me to figure out which ED map I should use and is very helpful. I can see if the address is to the southeast of the city, or that it’s on the west side of a river, or that a diagonal thoroughfare runs near it, for example.
Even though some of the maps are broken up and span multiple images, you can tell where the tops and edges are and get a fix for which sections of the maps will have the section for the southeast portion of the city, the northwest section, etc. The more I work with them, the easier it gets.
Next Up, Screenshots, Take Two
After last night’s post (if you missed it, it’s here), I heard from several of you wondering about how to grab a screenshot. There are several ways to grab an image from your screen that you can print or edit with online tools, and while I can’t get into particulars with any one program I’ll touch on some basic options that most of us have available to us through our standard computer accessories.
Commercial Products. There are a number of commercial products available and a quick search for “screenshot software” or screen capture software” should pull up a list of products to review—some free and some are available with a paid license. Most products offer a free trial so you can try them and buy only if you like it. Talk to other genealogists and see what they’re using. Our Facebook page is a great place to network with other family historians, who are always eager to help and offer advice.
Windows. If you have Windows, you should be able to hit CTL and Print Screen (usually found on the top row of the keyboard above numbers and navigation controls). This will copy what you are seeing on your screen to an invisible clipboard. In your list of programs on the Start menu, look for Accessories and open that folder. Then select Paint. (You could also use a Word or Wordpad document for this purpose.) Open it up and click CTL and V. This will paste the item from that invisible clipboard to your document or image. In Paint you can save it as an image file, or if you’ve pasted into a document, it will save as that document type.
From there you can print your map or insert shapes like arrows or lines that help you delineate enumeration district (ED) boundaries, highlight numbers, mark intersections near your family, or whatever else you’d like to do. If you’re a paper person, highlighters work fantastic. This makes it easy for you to glance back and forth at the map while you’re navigating the census images and zero in even faster on the address you’re looking for.
Mac. OK, for this one I had to call my boss, Jeanie, for advice. I don’t have a Mac, so she’s my go-to girl for this. If you’re a Mac user, look in your applications, click on Utilities, and look for Grab. Then go to Capture and choose from there. You can find more information and other options for grabbing a screen shot here.
Kris Williams: The Importance of the 1940 U.S. Census
We should all be aware of what took place in our country leading up to the 1940 census and what followed shortly after. Our country had experienced many ups and downs in just a short span of time. From the prosperity of the roaring 20’s till its end in 1929 with the crash of the stock market; resulting in The Great Depression. To the rise of organized crime in 1920 due to prohibition; till it’s end in 1933 with the 21st Amendment. Following end of prohibition, there was the Golden Age of Hollywood that made “stars” out of gangsters. Radio was the main source of news and entertainment, like today’s Internet. The airwaves were dominated by popular radio shows, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller and The Andrews Sisters.
In Europe, the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler were tearing countries and families apart. The United States tried to remain distant from the war in Europe. However, it became unavoidable with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941. While the Great Depression taught people to make due and save, WWII sent our young men off to war and changed women’s roles in society forever.
I have always found the 1930’s -1940’s to be one of the most fascinating times in our history. There was so much life altering change, in such a short amount of time, it touched everyone. How were all of these events affecting the everyday American? More importantly, how did they affect your family?
The 1940 census is the first census to be released in the last 10 years. What is different about this census is the amount of information that is included in it. For starters, it shows who in the family filled it out, people living in the household and those who were not home when it was taken. Other details it covers are-the highest level of education completed, employment, income, and where they resided 5 years before in 1935. Along with the standard information, sampling techniques were added to the 1940 census. 1 in 20 people were asked to answer 14 additional questions, which included literacy, income and fertility. So much information was included that 72 years ago when it was put out, there were moves by organizations and senators to have it boycotted completely.
The most fascinating part to me about the 1940 census is that many who were included in it, are still alive today. My grandparents were in their late teens or early twenties when it was taken; for you it may have been your parents who were. Getting a better understanding of the time period that shaped them, will give us a better understanding of how its directly affected the people we are today. The 1940 census can not only tell us about the state our country was in as a whole, but it is also a glimpse at what life was like for our parents or grandparents.
Ask-Ancestry-Anne: Interesting Tip from a Member on the 1940 Census
This isn’t actually a question, but a comment that might help when people can’t find a specific address.
I worked the 1990 census in the “follow-up” phase where we went back to obtain forms from households who hadn’t returned them. There were many residences where the street name had changed due to increased traffic on the original road. It was no longer safe for mail delivery or a driveway to be on what was now a busy highway. So the house hadn’t moved, but instead of being 701 Main Street it was now 701 Harvest Drive. They made the landowner move the driveway to the side street.
This will look really confusing on the census forms because all other houses on Harvest Drive have very different numbers.
Thanks Deb for sharing. You just never know what twist you might run into on your search.
Wow, it’s been a busy three days! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a blast exploring he 1940s neighborhoods where my ancestor lived. While it’s really nice to have an index, the good thing about browsing and using enumeration district maps is the opportunity to really get to know the places where they lived. This kind of knowledge can pay big dividends down the road.
As I’ve helped many of you in our daily Live Look-ups on Livestream, I’ve also been able to explore some of your ancestors’ neighborhoods. As I’ve done so, we’ve had some challenges with some searches, so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve found useful.
Print and/or Edit Maps
Sometimes the Enumeration District Maps aren’t the easiest to read. In one case I took a screen shot that I saved as a JPG file, and used my photo editing program to lighten and darken maps with some degree of success.
I’ve also used screen shot editing programs to grab portions of maps and add lines, circles, and arrows where the edges of the enumeration district (ED) are not distinct. This gives me a better picture of what streets are in the area where I’m searching, where I expect the address to fall, and when I’m getting close while I’m browsing census images. Here’s one example I used when I was helping a friend pin down an address.
I used a contemporary map to try to pin down approximately where the address she was looking for would fall and used red lines to highlight the sometimes hard to follow edges of the ED.
In another case, I was helping someone in our Live Look-Up sessions on Livestream (archived versions are here-scroll down past the viewer and click on them) who couldn’t find his great-grandparents’ block enumerated in the ED it was supposed to fall in. I thought I would see if tracing the route he took would help. As it turned, it looks like this enumerator did not complete his appointed route (clearly he wasn’t a mailman in his other job). It looks like several blocks were not completed.
Browsing Images on Ancestry.com
I’m loving the new image viewer and all the things that you can do with it. While I always go through looking for names when I’m browsing (you may find an enumerator who forgot to note when he turned onto a new street), there are times when I want to just browse quickly, looking for a particular street. Instead of getting a neckache trying to read everything sideways, I can rotate the image by clicking on the green Actions button, then selecting Image Controls top open up those options.
Although I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the images, there have been times when I’ve been less than impressed with the handwriting. TheInvert colorsflips the colors so you’re reading white writing on a black background and it’s been helpful in deciphering some words. You can also adjust he contrast with these tools.
Hope this has been helpful and that you’re having as much fun as I am. If you have any questions you’d like me to address here, you can email me at Juliana@Ancestry.com.
I hope you’ll also join us tomorrow for another Live Look-up session at 1 pm ET here on Livestream. Anne Mitchell and myself will be in the Chat Room helping as many of you as we can, and Crista Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist, will be sharing some of her favorite tips in the video.
Oh Boone family, where are you hiding? From city directories and school yearbooks, I recently discovered some great information but I know the 1940 census holds some new information! Velma and Howard married young. Velma was just 15 when they were married. In 1930 she is 16 years old and has a new baby. Howard is working as an electrician for the switch board. They are renting a home for $40 per month in Houston. Then according to city directories, in 1949 they are living in Compton California. When did they move? Why?
From family stories, I know that Grandma Boone loved to play card games. She was known as quite a character and ruthless at “Dirty Dog.” I hope the 1940 Census will tell me about her education. What grade was she able to complete considering she married at 15? Was she always a stay at home mom or did she work during the depression? Howard is an equal mystery. When did they buy the Compton house? How much did it cost? Will the answers be in the 1940 Census? I’m not sure if they were in Texas, California, or somewhere else in 1940 but I can’t wait to find out!
Laura Dansbury, Ancestry.com, Director, Product Management
1940 Census for Dad, check. Memories flowing, check.
While we were sleeping, wonderful things were happening behind the scenes at Ancestry.com. I was thrilled to wake up this morning to find Ohio posted. Before I even had my morning cup of coffee, I was diving in to find my dad’s first appearance in the census.
I was not disappointed. As my eyes rested on this record that has been hidden from view for 72 years, it was exciting to see the whole family. When I called my dad to talk, as I had hoped, I learned some new things. You’d think that with two genealogists in the family, we would know everything there is to know about my grandparents. Nope. I had no idea until we talked, that it was his job with a paper company that got him deferred from service in World War II. They made boxes for the military, and they considered it essential to the war effort. Why did I never think to ask about that?
We were also trying to narrow down when Grandpa stopped working for that paper company so that he and Grandma could start up their own company. Reviewing the records I already had gave us a clue in that my grandmother applied for Social Security in December 1946. She had worked prior to their getting married, but since Social Security wasn’t around back then, she hadn’t applied. Then they started a family and she didn’t work until the formed the company. New items to add to my family timeline. I love it.
That’s the great thing about the 1940 census. I’ve seen a few people post on blogs and Facebook that they’re waiting until it’s all done and indexed before they dive in and start searching. Not me. That chat with my dad made my day, and now I have some new details to add to our family history.
Now I can’t wait to find his grandfather. I wonder what memories that record will stir.
At the bottom of the page you will see a list of the States and Territories and where they are in process.
This is updated manually and you will see the update at the bottom.
Even when a state is “In Process” you can check on the status and see if your county is there. For example, as I write this, we have started on the state of Washington and we have a few counties available to view. If you see your county, take a look!
I admit that yesterday I was checking often when they started Virginia to catch Rockbridge County as soon as I could. And I am impatiently waiting for North Carolina. Patience is not a family trait!
I’ve bookmarked the page, so I can check it quickly.
I am waiting for Iowa. And I’ve tried to convince my friends in our data-processing center that Iowa would be such a great state to start with. No one is buying.
Though I can’t wait to see my grandparents, aunts and uncles in the 1940 census records, the folks I am waiting to find, I don’t even know yet. For years I have been tracing the female descendants of my 3rd great grand-aunt, Lavenia Triplett Careless. And those granddaughters of hers have proved elusive and wily. Based on clues to what their married names could be that I have found on USGenWeb, I hope to score a few big finds that will lead me to living cousins who might know a little more of the family story they would be willing to share with me. Here’s who I am looking for:
Florence Fisher, b. 1908 in Iowa
Mable L. Hyde, b. 1920 in Iowa
Betty Ann Hyde, b. 1924 in Iowa
Jennie Pearl Parks Parkin, b. Jul 1896 in Iowa
I’ve got my fingers crossed and my cursor on the refresh button at the 1940 Collection page on Ancestry where there is a chart showing the progress for each state (lower left corner).
DC and Nevada are Complete--Indiana and Other States Moving Quickly
Wow, states are loading quickly, with Washington, DC, and Nevada now complete. My home state of Indiana has 55 counties represented (of 92), and I’ve already identified who was living in my old house and quickly found my brother-in-law’s family in Jasper County. Whoohoo! We are off and running.
Our first big find in the 1940 census! None other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President, Head Honcho in Chief. Tracy Slade in our Digital Preservation department found this way past most people’s bedtime. But none of us could sleep ‘cuz we’re all too excited.
BTW, the 1940 census started streaming live at approximately 1:20 a.m. EST April 2 on Ancestry.com. You should definitely check it out. You can even watch as the images post. Amazing.
Ask Ancestry Anne: My grandmother's story continues
I lost touch with my mother’s side of the family many years ago. But I have rediscovered the family through the documents on Ancestry.com
I’ve learned a lot about my grandmother Jennie Elizabeth Payne and then all of her brothers and sisters. In 1930, I found her and her orphaned brothers and sisters living together, her father and mother having died in the 1920’s. It gave me a whole new perspective on her and what she must have gone through. It changed my whole view of her and what her life must have been like.
I know that in 1930 she has no listed profession, but I know she was a nurse at some point in her life. Was it during the 1930’s? Did they the family stay together on the farm or where they all leaving elsewhere? I know most of her brothers fought in WWII. Did they have any idea what was coming?
I believe she married my grandfather Howard Turner in May of 1940, so I should find her living alone or with relatives. In 1930, she is living in Crowder’s Mountain, Gaston County, North Carolina. My mother was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, after 1940, so I have a couple of counties to start hunting in. And yes, I will page through the images until I find her. I just know that there are some details in the census that will help me understand what happened to this family during the depression.
Robert, Judy, and James Szucs, with John Mekalski (and John Szucs, Jr. in the doorway), c. 1942
I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. As I write this we’re 28 hours from the release of the 1940 census. Yes, we’re measuring it in hours now. This is the first census that I’ll be able to see that includes my dad. He was a young boy in 1940 and I’ll find him, his brother and sister, and my grandparents living in Cleveland, Ohio.
He’s told me a lot of stories about when his early years—how during the war years, his family would follow what was going on in Europe with maps, how he got the scar on his arm running from a loose dog, memories of his grandparents, and so much more. The 1940 census will help me to build on the stories he told me, and those my grandma told me—how they were very poor when they first got married and had a difficult time during the Great Depression and how tough it was with three young children at that time.
Were they still feeling the effects in 1940? I know that by 1940, they had bought a house, and I have the address where I expect to find them. The census will tell me how much that house was worth and who their neighbors were.
Was Grandpa working at that time? Was he unemployed at any time in 1939? How much did he earn? I’ll learn that as well.
Even more than the details on the form, sharing this record with my dad is what I’m looking forward to most. Who knows what new stories he’ll be reminded of and can share with me?
Lou arriving in El Paso in the arms of her grandfather, Raymond Dyer, 1943
It was 1943 when my father became ill and my mother was left to support six little children. At 22 months of age, I was taken in by my mother’s sister’s family. My grandfather flew with me from New York to El Paso, Texas to the Pyburn home and what was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. My father never recovered so my aunt and uncle lovingly raised me along with their own four children. They had previously lived in Mexico where my uncle was a mining engineer and I’m unsure when they moved back to the United States. I’m excitedly waiting to see where they were living when the 1940 census was taken. This is the family that had so much to do with whom I am today. Will they be there?
My mom grew up in Caldwell, Idaho, a little town near the Oregon border.
The family home is gone now—replaced by a medical complex—but not my memories of it. As a young girl a trip to grandma’s always meant feasting on fried chicken, making dolls out of hollyhock blossoms, and getting candy from the Penny Wise drugstore.
When the release of the 1940 census was announced I knew my first stop would have to be in the town where I had so many good times. Not only will I find my grandparents, but it’s also the first census where my mom would be listed. To help pass the time until the records are released, I decided to do some online research of Caldwell and came across an amazing set of historical photos, which includes more than 100 images of the tiny Idaho town as it was in 1941, less than a year after the census.
The photos are from the Library of Congress’s online Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the U.S. government hired a group of photographers to travel the country and document how New Deal programs were helping rural farmers. For almost a decade, photographers created thousands and thousands of images of everyday Americans during the Great Depression and WWII. In the words of Roy Stryker who managed the project, they “introduced America to Americans.”
Now, more than 160,000 of these iconic photos are available on the Library of Congress website. While you’re waiting for the 1940 census to go online, why not take a quick trip back in time and search the collection for the small towns in your family tree. You never know what—or who—you may find.
Can you believe it’s almost here! No longer are we talking about the release of the 1940 census in terms of weeks or months—it’s only days away! As we sit here watching the clock and counting down, we thought it would be fun to get us in the mood with some of the stories you’ve sent us for our 1940s time capsule. (If you’d like to share your story, see the details at the end of this post.)
We received the following story from Angelo F. Coniglio:
When my parents Gaetano Coniglio and Rosa Alessi moved to Buffalo in 1921, they had four sons in tow: Gaetano (Guy Jr.), born in their home town of Serradifalco, Sicily; and Leonardo (Leonard), Felice (Phil), and Raimondo (Ray), born in Robertsdale, Pennsylvania.
The family lived briefly in ‘the Hooks’ in Buffalo, in a tenement at 18 Peacock Street, where their first girl, Carmela (Millie) was born. They didn’t stay long in the Canal District, but in 1924 moved to a rented flat at 309 Myrtle Avenue on the East Side, across from the La Stella bleach factory. My sisters, the twins Concetta (Connie) and Maria (Mary) were born there, as was my brother Antonio (Tony). I came along in 1936, the only one to be born in a hospital, while our nation was in the midst of the Great Depression.
My father found work as a caretaker at Welcome Hall, the community center at Myrtle and Cedar, and as a bartender at the Magistrale family’s saloon, Marconi’s, but the pay was slim, and to augment the family’s income, in summers of the late 1930s and early 1940s the whole family would be loaded on a truck with other poor immigrant families, and be taken to Musacchio’s farm, on Route 62, just outside the town of North Collins, New York.
There, we lived in a one-room “shack” with cooking and sleeping areas separated by sheets hung over wires spanning the room. We got our water in buckets from the community pump, and used a smelly outhouse (baccausu, pidgen-English for “back house”) when we could “hold it” no longer.
We picked string beans, strawberries, and red and purple raspberries, depending on which crop was ripe. Before I was born, my eight siblings, mother and father worked the fields, and were paid one to three cents for each quart of berries picked. The kids picked about a hundred quarts a day, and my mother about a hundred-fifty, and my father, who came by Greyhound bus on weekends, also picked about a hundred-fifty a day. So on a good day, the family might earn about ten to thirty dollars!
The number of Coniglio kids at the farm camp varied, as some would stay back for school or other reasons. For example, my brother Leonard ran away with the circus in 1930, depleting the ‘crew’ until he returned the following year; and in 1936, the family was a pair of hands short, as my brother Guy had married the year before and remained in Buffalo to work at a glass factory.
Another mouth to feed came along in 1936, when I was born. As the youngest, I think I ate more berries than I picked, but some of my earliest memories are of “the farm” and the other families that I got to know there: the Sciortinos from Efner Street and the Pepes from Myrtle Avenue.
Phil’s friend Alphonse ‘Foonzi’ Pepe remembers that my father Gaetano loved to watch the camp’s sandlot baseball games, in which Phil usually starred. We also met and were befriended by families from North Collins; the Fricanos, Elardos, Manuels, De Carlos, and especially the Volos, who also originated in Serradifalco. My sister Millie met and fell in love with Al Volo during our summers there, and they eventually married and settled in North Collins.
My father is shown in this photo standing by the community water-well pump of Musacchio’s farm camp. I recently learned from Sam and Ross Markello (Marchello) of North Collins that he was assigned the responsibility of removing the pump handle each day at sunset and replacing it the next day before sunrise, to prevent unauthorized use of water by the resident laborers. Because of this assignment, he was called “Marshu Tanu” (Master Gaetano).
After years of scrimping and saving from our three-cents-a-quart labors, Gaetano was able to buy the first home the family ever owned in 1944. It was at 973 West Avenue, a few blocks from Bluebird’s Bakery, and right next door to the family of Calogero Butera and Grazia Asarese, fellow immigrants from Serradifalco.
Sadly, our joy at being in our own home was cut short on July 4, 1944, when my father was struck and killed by a hit and run driver on the corner of West Ferry and Niagara. But by buying that house on West Avenue, Gaetano had provided for his family, and through his work ethic, frugality and passion to save, he had given us all a valuable example that we have tried to emulate throughout our lives.
If you’d like to share your your photos, memories and stories about 1940 (give or take 10 years), send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll add them to our time capsule — and invite everyone to share in this amazing era from the past.
Include your name, email address, plus a photo and story details (names of people, location, year, etc.). Note that by submitting a photo or story, you grant Ancestry.com Operations Inc. permission to use, distribute, edit or republish your User Provided Content on our website as part of the time capsule. If we select yours for publication, you’ll be credited as the submitter, so be certain that any living persons mentioned or pictured provide their consent for publication, too.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Finding my grandparents in the 1940 census
One of the first families I will look for will be my paternal grandparents Gilbert Gillespie and Ann Gillespie nee Feazell. This will be the first census where I will see them married, and my Aunt Madeline will be on it as well. My dad was born in September of 1940, so he just missed appearing.
Fingers crossed that one of them is on line 14 or 29 and was asked supplementary questions, but I’ll be happy enough to find them.
No one has been able to tell me if my grandmother graduated from high school…the answer should be on there. Was my grandmother listed as Ann, Irene or by the name we all knew her by, Judy? The story there is her brother saw a Punch and Judy show, and started calling his sister Judy. And it stuck to the day she died.
Did they own a home? They hadn’t been married for long. Did they live on or near Houston Street near my grandfather’s parents? Or were they living in Buena Vista near my grandmother’s parents? My dad can remember sitting on the porch at the end of World War II watching a parade to celebrate the end of the War.
Was my grandfather working? What was he doing? I know he spent most of his life working for Burlington Industries. Had he already started? Had he been working steadily? And what about his parents? Brothers? Sisters? This will be the last census record where I will find my great grandfather Wyatt – he dies a year later.
I suspect that I won’t learn anything mind blowing on this census, but I can’t wait to find them on the form. you just never know what new detail is going to jump out at you and make you say “Wow, I never knew that.”
“My life not availeth me in comparison to the liberty of the truth”
When I was 11 years old and in the 4th grade, I had a teacher who was obsessed with genealogy. She would regularly come in and tell my class about the new things she had found through her research. Eventually, as a graded project, she had us go home and start our own family tree. She gave us some pointers on how to get started and gave us two weeks to see what we could find. I still wonder if she had any idea the monster she created when she gave me that assignment.
Being as young as I was, I couldn’t drive to town halls and the internet wasn’t around like it is today. So, most of my research was done through phone calls and visits with my grandparents. During those conversations and visits, I learned about my great grandfather who was born in Italy and another who was born in Nova Scotia. I also learned that I came from a line of strong willed women. One of which, who’s story was so interesting, caught the attention of this history loving nerd and is responsible for my obsession with genealogy.
Mary Dyer was one of several women my grandmother (my Dad’s mother) had told me about. At the time, all she could tell me was Mary was hanged for being a witch in Boston. She was unable to tell me how we were related to her, however she said that her mother used to have a family bible that outlined the connection. She also told me that the tree Mary had been hanged from had been cut down and from it; plaques were made and given to descendants. My great grandmother had one of these plaques. However, when my great grandmother died, the bible and the plaque were two of several things that disappeared from her house. Due to my own curiosity and wanting to solve the puzzle for my grandmother; it then became my goal to track down my family’s connection to Mary Dyer.
Mary Dyer came over to Boston in the 1630’s from England with her husband William. Together they had several children and were very active within the small community. Along the way she made friends with another strong willed woman, Anne Hutchinson. Anne Hutchinson was known for holding her own religious meetings and had a good following. Since it was uncommon for women at that time, Anne became a target and was eventually banished to Rhode Island with her family. During that time, Mary had become a Quaker. Quakers were very unpopular in Boston which was lead by Puritans. Some of the local leaders disliked Mary and her religion so much, when she gave birth to a stillborn baby they spread rumors about it being badly deformed. They said that it had horns and scales and that it was obviously the outcome of her dealings with the devil. These leaders labeled her as a witch and decided to banish her from the city.
Although she was banished she returned to Boston to bring clothing and food to other imprisoned Quakers. When she was caught, they were going to have her hanged until her husband was able to get her released under the condition he swore they would never return to the city. Mary stayed away for a short time before returning to Boston again to support her Quaker friends. This would be the 3rd and final stand she would take against the city for her religion.
Mary was hanged June 1, 1660 on the Boston Common in front of a whole mob of people. She was then buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on the Common. Mary’s son Samuel eventually married Anne Hutchinson’s granddaughter, Anne Hutchinson and this is the line I descend from. Today a statue of both Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson stand in front of the Boston State House over looking the site of Mary’s hanging.
Having not grown up in a church, I did not understand dying for a religion. However, I did understand the importance of standing up for what you believe in and the importance of knowing right from wrong. Her refusal to back down, while others may have seen it as stubborn or foolish due to the consequences at the time, helped shape the country we know and love today.
Movers and shakers who forged the way on Who Do You Think You Are?
On last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? award-winning actress Helen Hunt uncovered the stories in her dad’s family tree. She knew little about his family; her dad’s mother died when he was just five years old. But Helen’s goal to unlock the past and share it with her own daughter persevered. First stop – census records that directed her to California and ultimately the Gold Rush, where Helen’s great-grandfather staked his claim. But the gold he found was a little more green as he built the foundation of a financial institution that still stands today.
And the inspiration kept coming. Next Helen traveled across the country to Maine to learn more about a great-great-grandmother. Following her through historical records, Helen discovered this powerful woman paved the way for women’s suffrage – even casting a ballot herself.
Ancestry.com is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? airing Fridays at 8/7c on NBC. Watch Helen’s episode online here.
Every family tree is full of inspiration, yours included, even if your own family’s story never made it into a history book. You can rest assured that the sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured helped forge a more welcoming path for each of us. And the best part? Now you get to follow their trail, uncover their journeys and come face to face with history all over again.
Helen Hunt Discovers Her Past on Who Do You Think You Are?
Discovering that her great-grandmother was a leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union doesn’t sit well at first with award-winning actress Helen Hunt – until she traces this powerful female’s surprising impact on history. From groundbreaking roots in California to a women’s rights mover-and-shaker in Maine, it’s a story full of surprises. Watch it unfold on Friday night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 8/7c on NBC, sponsored by Ancestry.com.
Win the Journey of a Lifetime in the 'Star of Your Family Story Contest'
Who Do You Think You Are? follows some of today’s most beloved celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of discovery as their families’ histories are revealed. We all know a celebrity’s story is interesting, but what about your story?
Ancestry.com allows you to unlock so many magical moments in your family journey, and we want to allow you the mystique celebrities get to enjoy. Ancestry.com is offering you a chance to have your family story discovered and then unveiled for the world to see. We are giving away an Ancestry.com produced video that reveals your own amazing journey of family discovery, and will feature it on Ancestry.com this summer.
How do you enter? It’s easy!
Just submit a video telling us your family’s story on our Facebook entry page here:
With a lead from an 1860 slave schedule, I found the name of my family’s slaveholder. Later, I located an article the slaveholder’s 2nd great-granddaughter had written about her family. Reluctantly, I contacted her and identified myself as the 2nd great-granddaughter of a slave owned by her 2nd great grandfather and I’m glad I did. I sent her results of extensive research I had done on my family. She later contacted me and told me that her brother had my 2nd great-grandfather’s tombstone. It had been displaced from a cemetery due to flooding. Someone found it and gave it to her brother, thinking he was a family member. After learning the stone was my 2nd great-grandfather’s, her brother gave it to me. The caption on the stone reads: “Gabe Embry, Born June 30, 1837, Died Feb 28, 1887.” Members of my family and theirs later held a short memorial service and placed the stone in a family cemetery next to his grandson. It was the return of a treasure.
It’s getting closer. Only 25 more days until the 1940 census is released. So I’m busily trying to update my family tree, adding every address I know of to the ancestors who were alive in 1940. I’m feeling quite organized actually. I created a report using Family Tree Maker that lists family members who were alive in 1940.
The report’s really pretty simple to create. Under the Publish tab in Family Tree Maker (I’m using 2012, but these steps should still work in the most recent versions), click on Person Reports in the left panel and then select the Index of Individuals Report.
On the right side of the page, click on the button that says Individuals to Include.
Then from the dialog box that pops up Filter in anyone born before 1 Apr 1940. Then Filter out anyone who died before 1 Apr 1940. This gives me a list of people who were alive on the census date.
You may need to tweak your list, if for example, you have family who was living outside the U.S. at that time, or for people that snuck in because maybe you don’t have a death date for them, but that’s simple enough too. Just select those individuals on the report side (right) and click on Exclude.
Once you’ve got your list created, click on the save icon in the upper right corner. (It’s the last icon under the green bar that says Index of Individual Report Options.) Then just name your report and you can print it out.
I’m using mine as a check list and am gathering addresses on the people I need to find. So I’m anxious to hear your ideas. How are you preparing for the big day?
Is there any way that you can help me find out who the parents were for George Elmer Thomas? He was born November 18, 1863 and died December 27, 1955. He was married to Emma Adams in Burlington, NJ at the Methodist church (no help there on his marriage return). He lived in Buddtown, Burlington and Vincentown, New Jersey and he died at the Cranbury Nursing home in Cranbury, New Jersey.
I wanted to look at old school records from Vincentown to see if his parents registered him for school (no luck). The only thing I have is the 1880 census of him working on the farm of a Job Clevenger. It seems as if his life began at 17.
— Rosemary Thomas
I searched for a George Elmer Thomas in the 1870 census and found an Elmer Thomas born in 1862 in New Jersey.
You’ll notice that he is living in the household of Thomas Bellanger, who is living with a Martha Bellanger, relationship unknown. Also living at the house are Sallie Thomas and Annie Gates. Sallie is a domestic servant, and Annie and Elmer are living at home.
A search of the 1860 census in Burlington County shows no other likely candidates who can be George.
It’s interesting that both Annie and Elmer are listed as “at home” and not as servants. Were Sallie, Annie and Elmer related to Thomas? Sallie could be Elmer’s mother, but she would have been 17 when she had him and probably around 16 when she got married (if she married).
I could not find marriage records that included a likely candidate for Sallie in the early 1860s, and I can’t find a Sallie Thomas in the 1860 Burlington, New Jersey census. And there are too many Sallie/Sally/Susan’s in the 1860 census of that age to pick one that might be her per-marriage.
I’d suggest next that you investigate the four people living in the household that George Elmer lived in. If you can find marriage records for Burlington County in the 1860s you could try to track down Sallie to see if she is in there.
You may also consider contacting the Burlington County Historical Society. They may have additional suggestions on where you could locate birth and marriage information for that period.
I’m also guessing that some of our readers who are more familiar with New Jersey genealogy records than I am will have some suggestions.
Over the years my family had tried to find a record of the birth of my grandparents’ first child, who was born in England in the very early 1900s. The family story was that my grandmother, Anna, left Russia first with the opportunity to travel to England with a choir “to sing for the queen.” She jumped ship and stayed in England, where their first child was born. Grandpa Abraham left later, joined her in England (briefly, it turns out) and then was the first of the family to come to the U.S. in 1905. Grandma and their first child joined him here later, in 1906.
We were never very sure of the exact details or even whether the story was correct. We had a birth date for the first child, but could never find the record. Recently a kind and wise soul found her for me, not only confirming her birth, but also narrowing the window of time in which her mother came to England. Here’s the secret that was used to find the record:
The person found her by searching on the child’s FIRST NAME ONLY, and the birth year. It turns out that the family’s last name had been misspelled, very clearly and legibly on the original record. The last name, correctly spelled, is Schecter/Shechter, but in the record the “T” had been replaced by an “L.”
One of the many advantages of having a tree online at Ancestry.com or on Family Tree Maker or one of our downloadable apps is that you can take advantage of our hints. While you are away we are out searching for you.
And now we have a new way for you to access those hints: the All Hints Page
If you are on a tree view online, mouse over the find a person in your tree text box and choose List of all people
Then when you see the all people in your tree, click on “Hints”
You will now see your All Hints Page.
You can then click on Recent to see the latest hints we’ve found, or click on Records to see just the Record hints. Photos, Stories and Member Trees do pretty much what you expect.
Let’s say you’ve clicked on Record. You can then sort by Last Name, or First Name, or you can enter a name and filter that way as well.
Explore a little and then check back as we continue to make improvements.
Marriage Records Video and Ancestry Day in Philadelphia, Pa.
Our ancestors got married and we get the gift. Marriage records can include details that can spur our research back in time, but even beyond the names and dates, our ancestors’ weddings marked a big turning point in their lives. I often wonder about their stories. How did they meet? What kind of wedding did they have? Who stood up in their wedding? I know the answers and have some great stories for some of my close ancestors, but for others, their big day remains a mystery—and I love a good mystery.
Ancestry Day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 3 March 2012 In the video, I mentioned Ancestry Day in Philadelphia, where we’ll be teaming up with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with a full day of workshops to help you jumpstart your family history. You can learn more and register for the conference here.
Marissa Tomei’s journey into the past on last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (Fridays 8/7c on NBC) centered on the untimely death of her great-grandfather. At the start, he was little more than a name in the family tree and the subject of speculation—of the shadiest type. But his reputation got a makeover once Tomei dug into his story.
That’s the wonderful part about going beyond a name on a family tree—digging into the story brings people to life. And adding off-the-beaten-path resources like newspapers, which helped Tomei get the real story of her great-grandfather’s murder and its aftermath, makes the truth that much more vivid.
My first research experience with newspapers was also one of the first real research trips I took with my mother. We went to the Chicago Public Library, where we spent hours scrolling through microfilms of old newspapers, looking for mentions of her client’s ancestors. Although I was supposed to be searching for an obituary, I kept calling my mother over to see my exciting discoveries. Unfortunately they were not about her client; they were just interesting articles from the era we were researching.
I’ve never lost that fascination with old newspapers and still enjoy trolling through the pages of dailies and weeklies from places where my ancestors lived—and pretty much anywhere else.
Historical newspapers offer a firsthand look into the times and places our ancestors inhabited. And that glimpse into bygone eras often provides insights that can’t be found elsewhere. You’ll find the Ancestry.com newspapers collection through the Search tab. Click on it and look for Stories & Publications on the right side. Then use these search tips to find your family in the news.
· Specify “Exact.” Restricting your search to “exact” can help narrow the results. For names, click the Use Default Settings links below the name fields and select the appropriate restrictions. For keywords, click the Exact box following the keyword field.
· To narrow your search to a particular time frame, enter a date in the year field under Publication Info. You can click the Exact Only box, but also allow a little wiggle room by entering +/- 1, 2, 5 or 10 years (e.g., a search for a publication date of 1850 with +/- 10 years will search newspapers for 1840–1860).
· If you want to search for a phrase, put it in quotes. This tells Ancestry.com to look for that exact phrase—for example, “California emigration”—rather than pages that mention California in one article and emigration from Sweden in another.
· Search beyond your ancestor’s stomping grounds. Like they do today, newspapers often picked up stories from places across the country. Try searching the entire collection for a place name (town or county) instead of a person.
Make some time to search or browse newspapers from the era of your ancestors. Bookmark your “favorites,” and when you find a few spare minutes, curl up with the laptop and take a quick trip through the past with some real pages of history. And be sure to add them to your family tree, in case you ever have the needs to unravel a family mystery, too. You’ll find information about doing just that at www.ancestry.com/wdytya. Ancestry.com is a sponsor of the Who Do You Think You Are?.
Don't miss Marisa Tomei on tonight's "Who Do You Think You Are?"
On this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? award-winning actress Marisa Tomei searches for the truth behind her great-grandfather’s rumored murder. Learn what she uncovers and how getting a look at the big picture changes an entire generation’s view of one hardworking man in the family tree. Ancestry.com is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are?, which airs Friday nights at 8/7c on NBC. And join Ancestry.com throughout the season at www.ancestry.com/wdytya for advice, tips and more to help discover more about your own family’s history.
The year 1865 found many African American Civil War veterans and ex-slaves with a little money in their pockets and there was a need for an institution where they could start a savings account. The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (often referred to as the Freedman’s Bank) was incorporated on 03 March 1865 to meet that need. Unfortunately mismanagement and fraud led to the failure of that institution in 1874 wiping out the savings of many African Americans. While some were eventually able to recover about two-thirds of their savings, many never got any of their money back.
The signature registers of the Freedman’s Bank were preserved and eventually wound up in the National Archives, and in 2005, Ancestry.com indexed these records and made the index and images available to members. For purposes of identification, these registers asked personal questions of the account holder and as a result, many contain a goldmine of information regarding family structure. Names of spouses, children, parents, siblings, and even aunts and uncles can be found on the signature registers. Other information may include physical description, place of birth, residences, occupation, employer, and some earlier records will even include the names of former slave owners—a critical piece of information for tracing a slave beyond the Civil War. Here’s a sample record from Louisiana, 1867 (image 3).
Ask Ancestry Anne: Was my ancestor in Andersonville Prison?
Question: My great grandfather served in the Civil War and was a prisoner at Andersonville. However, I am unable to find him when I search the archives using his name and Andersonville. His name was John Aziza Jones born April 22, 1840 died May 10, 1941. Can you help?
Answer: First, I looked for John in the 1930 census – it’s the most recent one available and it lists if a man is a veteran and of which war. I found John living with his son Clifford in Filmore, Allegany County, New York. You don’t see many Civil War Veterans still alive in 1930, so this in itself is a very interesting find.
This same census record shows that John is widowed and was first married at the age of 22, so around 1862. It also indicates he was born in New York as were his parents and that he lives with his son, who rents a house for $15 per month, owns a radio set and works as a bookkeeper in a produce company. Any of this detail could come in handy later.
But since it’s John’s time in Andersonville that I’m interested in, I go to the New York state place page to see what is available in the New York Military records.
I first search U.S., Union Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865 and discover way too many John Jones to make any sense of. I move on to New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900. The first record is for John A. Jones born in 1840 in Allegany, New York. It all looks very promising.
Based on the middle name, I believe this is the right John Jones. And the remarks on this card are great:
Promoted to Srg’t Jan 17 1863 – missing in action since April 20, 1864 at battle of Plymouth N. C. paroled prisoner confined at Andersonville GA
I would suspect that he was captured in April 1864 in Plymouth, North Carolina, and released sometime before 13 June 1865 when he left the organization. And it appears that he was in Andersonville near the end of the war.
I found his pension card, in our Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861 – 1934.
We wanted to know who had been putting flowers on my husband’s granduncle’s grave. We first tried to contact the person by putting a note on some silk flowers and leaving it at the gravesite, but we received no response. On Memorial Day we decided we would wait at the grave to see if the person would arrive. Then we discovered we were too late – she had already been there and gone.
We made some inquiries at the nursing home in town, asking the head nurse if there was anyone who was living there who had lived in the town around the time of the granduncle’s death. Sure enough, we were led to a woman who remembered the family. Her daughter, in fact, was a friend of the daughter of the deceased.
We went directly to the town where the deceased man’s daughter lived, some 40-50 miles from the cemetery, and found her. It turned out that she was the one who had been putting flowers on the grave every year.
For several years after that, we would go to visit the daughter, pick her up and take her to the cemetery. My husband planted the flowers for her and we did the same for a great-grandfather’s grave, which was also in that same cemetery.
What delightful memories we have of those trips. And it’s thrilling to think that a tip from a nursing home led us to a relative we never knew existed before.