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Never Rely On Just the Census

Never Rely On Just the Census

  Ah, the census. The glorious census. It’s such an important document in genealogy, I would venture to say even a foundational document. But its flaws are many. Those who rely on only the census to reconstruct their ancestral families do so at the risk of recreating a family inaccurately. Take for example the case of my ancestor […]

Sorting Same-Named People

Sorting Same-Named People

I had an enslaved ancestor named Rezin Prather. I thought, “What an odd name. I’ll easily be able to find him in the records.” Guess what? It was a very popular name in Montgomery County, Maryland during the 19th century. There were numerous African-American “Rezin Prathers” floating around the county and in nearby Washington, D.C. […]

Marriage Records: Look Out for Multiple ...

Marriage Records: Look Out for Multiple Marriages

Marriage records are a foundational record for genealogists. I have discussed many times  how finding a female ancestor’s new married name led to breakthroughs. Most of us automatically think of that when we suddenly “lose” woman. What hasn’t come naturally for me yet is anticipating multiple marriages. Maybe two marriages is the maximum my mind […]

The Definition of Black: Race and the Ce...

The Definition of Black: Race and the Census

Censuses provide the framework for much of the family history research that we do. Because of this, it is useful to consult the instructions that were given to census enumerators. They are online at the University of Minnesota’s website. The confusing and shifting definitions and “racial” categories are a reminder that race is a fiction […]