Census taker’s route can be a mystery

The U.S. census, taken every decade since 1790, is one of our most important genealogy resources.

We are lucky ours were saved, while some countries tossed theirs. The 1890 census is our major loss, due to it being burned up accidentally in 1921.

An article in the July-September issue of National Genealogical Society Magazine relates to the pitfalls of the census taker’s route, walking or riding. Which way did he go? Did next door neighbors in the census really live that close together?

There are other potential problems to keep in mind with the census. Was the family at home or did a neighbor or a child provide the information? Sometimes, we find a surname repeated that is not the surname of everyone in the household.

The information probably was transcribed at least once, since the large census books were unlikely to be carried on horseback. Many folks may have spoken unclearly and the census enumerator probably did the best he could with the names. Some used initials to save time, but that helps confuse us.

So, it’s best to be happy when you find your people where they should be with good information. If you can’t find a family where you think they were, use some other methods to search, especially now that the census is digitized and indexed on several sites, including ancestry.com. I found one family, whose surname was dropped — using, instead, the father’s middle name — by searching for first names and ages. Always hope your family is there somewhere.

Antiquarian book dealers

The Georgia Book and Paper Fair returns to the AJC Decatur Book Festival this year. Located in the gymnasium of the First Baptist Church of Decatur, the fair runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 5 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 6. Admission is free. Sponsored by the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association (gaba.net), this is a great place to look for local history and genealogy books.

Upgrades at Georgia Archives

Sustainable preservation and environmental upgrades at the Georgia Archives, thanks to a recent National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, is the subject of the Sept. 11 Lunch and Learn Seminar being presented by staff members Kim Norman and Adam Parnell. It’s at noon and is free; bring your own lunch. For further information, call 678-364-3710 or check georgiaarchives.org.

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Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O. Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or gagensociety.org.