census records and county boundary changes

Census Records and County Boundary Changes

Editor’s note: The following post on the importance of knowing the county in order to properly utilize census records, and how shifting boundaries can affect that search, is written by author William Dollarhide. An excellent source that can be used to visualize the county boundaries for every county in the U.S. and for each census year is the book by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. This book has 393 maps showing each applicable census year and all county boundary changes from 1790 to 1920. Each map shows both the old boundaries and the modern boundaries for each state and census year, so a comparison can be made. 

Census Records and County Boundary Changes

All censuses taken since 1790 are tabulated and organized by the counties within each state or territory. By federal precedence, the county is the basic unit of jurisdiction for census demographics. Alaska is the only state without counties; therefore, judicial districts are used as jurisdictions for the censuses taken there. In Louisiana, the term “parish” is used in the same way as “county” in other states. Even in the New England states–where a town may have more importance than a county as a genealogical resource–censuses are organized by county.

Interestingly, Connecticut abolished county government in 1960. All county functions were taken over by the towns or by the state, except that the county boundaries were retained expressly for the purpose of taking a census and certain other statistical studies based on a county, rather than town boundaries. Continue reading…

genealogy gifts, Lee family, Virginia,

‘Tis the Season for Genealogy Gifts

Editor’s note: The following is a version of a post originally by the late Carolyn L. Barkley. Her ideas of what to give the genealogist in your life are just as awesome today as they were several years ago when this post was drafted. As technology has improved and prices have changed, some edits and updates were necessary. 

We hope this list inspires you to give the perfect present to both the naughty and nice genealogist in your life.

Genealogy Gift List

Do you have a genealogist on your holiday list? Perhaps, you are a genealogist who needs to provide a list of gift ideas to a family member. Here are five ideas to help your holiday shopping.

Give the gift of books

Thomas Jefferson stated “I cannot live without books.” There are many titles that would be great additions under your tree. Examples include any – better yet, any combination of titles – from the Genealogy at a Glance series from Genealogical.com. These laminated, four-page basic research guides make great research travel companions, weighing little and consuming minimal suitcase space. Library Journal, in its December 2012 issue, includes a “Short Takes” in which it states that “offering vetted online resources, further reading suggestions, and practical tips…these pamphlets will provide novices with a starting point, while more advanced researchers will likely discover in them a detail or two they hadn’t considered.” Currently, there are thirty-one titles in the series including research in the Family History Library, ethnic research (French, Italian, Scottish, Cherokee, African American, French-Canadian, English, Irish, and German), research in various states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Virginia), and several other topics including American cemeteries, Ellis Island, immigration, U. S. federal census records, and Revolutionary War genealogy. The cost is perfect for filling that Christmas stocking – just $8.95 each.

Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners: the Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation is a great book for a cold winter evening. Perhaps one of the best gifts would be a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (3rd ed., Genealogical Publishing Co., 2010. $59.95), a must-have for anyone’s home genealogical library. Continue reading…

free blacks, african american, georgia

Books reveal vital details of African-American history

We are pleased to share that two of our new releases were reviewed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on November 14, 2015. Georgia Free Persons of Color, Volume I and Georgia Free Persons of Color, Volume II, by Michael A. Ports. Both of these volumes provide crucial information which will help researchers trying to trace their own African-American history.

An 1818 statute of the Georgia legislature required all free persons of color to register with the inferior court of their county of residence. According to the statute, county clerks were required to inscribe each freed man or woman by name, age, place of birth, residence, year arrived in Georgia, and occupation. While not all clerks performed their duties to the letter of the law, these source records contain vital identifying information for African-American Georgians long before the Civil War or the watershed 1870 U.S. census. The ensuing registers, varying in their completeness, survive for twenty-one Georgia counties. (Incidentally, the only way to emancipate a slave in Georgia was by an act of the legislature. Antebellum manumissions, though rare, were granted for unusual acts, such as defending an owner’s property during a British incursion during the War of 1812, extinguishing a fire at the state capital, and other faithful service.)

Please see the review by Kenneth H. Thomas Jr. excerpted below. You can read the entirety of the review at my ajc.com:

Two new books compiled and edited by Michael A. Ports of Jacksonville contain copies of the Georgia laws from 1818 to 1834 relating to “free persons of color.”

“Georgia Free Persons of Color, Volume I” contains lists from Elbert, Hancock, Jefferson, Liberty and Warren Counties. “Volume II” contains lists from Appling, Camden, Clarke, Emanuel, Jones, Pulaski and Wilkes Counties, as well as Morgan County from an original manuscript at the Georgia Archives (though that county was omitted from the cover).

That volume includes legislative manumissions, or freeing of slaves. The author used the original county records on microfilm from the Georgia Archives, while the originals remain in the courthouses.

Each entry contains the name, age, place of nativity, residence, date the person came to Georgia, occupation and date of registration. Under occupation, some give the name of their employer, and some counties used this column to list the white person who was named guardian to the free person. (Under Georgia state law at the time, free persons of color had to have a guardian.)

These books are a very important source for African-American history, bringing to light a source that has long needed to be accessible. They also can help genealogists connected to either the free persons or their guardians find a link back to some other states, since nativity is listed.

Image credit: Card showing African American slave reaching freedom. Stephens, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1824-1882, artist, via The Library of Congress.

missouri, family history

Use the Holidays to Learn About Your Family History

Editor’s note: The following post is a reprint a guest column by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander. You can see the original post, printed online in The Missouri Times, at this link. While he focuses on Missouri resources, he mentions some fantastic resources that exist in other states as well. His ideas of where to start on a very simple level, taking advantage of the time with family that presents as a natural opportunity during the holidays, apply no matter where we live.

If your family has ties to Missouri, we recommend utilizing the state-specific archives mentioned in Mr. Kander’s column. In addition, there are several publications you may find useful. A History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri contains the genealogical histories of more than 800 families from the five early Missouri counties of St. Charles, Montgomery, Warren, Audrain, and Callaway. Missouri Marriages Before 1840 is an extraordinary compilation which contains the records of 16,000 marriages from fifty-one Missouri counties formed before 1840. Its importance as an aid to research is incontestable, for it is now the chief means of identifying those settlers who were in the state of Missouri prior to the first and second censuses of 1830 and 1840.

Please note that all links have been added to the content below to help our readers learn more about the topics and resources mentioned, as well as direct to further reading that may help you get started in recording your own family history: Continue reading…

Church Records

How to Locate Church Records

Editor’s Note: The following post is by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG. She is an accomplished researcher and writer, known to many of us from her work as the columnist of “Shaking the Family Tree,” as the former editor of RootsWeb Review, and as a founder of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors.    

Locating and Using Church Records

Church records are rich sources for genealogical information. However, finding the old church records of interest can be the challenge. To determine the religious affiliations of your ancestors, search through obituaries and cemetery records. Pay attention to family traditions; children’s names; marriage returns; and the style, translation, and language of old family Bibles; and check local histories and county history biographies (often called “mug books”). Local histories frequently mention early churches or the predominant denominations in their localities. Don’t overlook local newspapers and deed book entries. Many of our forebears’ names appeared in the local newspapers, and many donated land to churches. Continue reading…