Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teaching Myself (1940's) History

I have to admit, I haven't always been interested in history - family, American, or World.  I sat through my classes in high school, memorized the names and dates we were told to, and immediately forgot ...a lot...of what I (didn't) learn.

The phrase, Teach yourself history by doing family history, is so insanely true.  My poor husband, who aspired to be a history teacher, just shakes his head and laughs when I would ask him questions such as "This American ancestor died in France in 1944 - what was going on then? Why did he die over there?"  

Thankfully, I know better now.

For instance, I now know when the Civil War was, and I also can tell you with certainty that it was the SECOND World War that my grandfather fought in and not the first.  (Sorry, grandpa, for aging you prematurely all these years.)  I do, however, tend to forget that World War II affected the entire country, and not just those who enlisted and served in the military.  World War II was more than my grandfather serving in the army overseas.  World War II was also the farmers in rural northwest Ohio.

I've added a photo here of a "War Ration" book that was among my grandmother's things passed on to me by my mother a few years ago.  She thought I'd like to have it with my newly discovered interest in all things historical and family related. 

(Ashamedly) I had no clue as to what it was. 

This book is filled with multiple pages of stamps that my grandparents would tear out as needed for purchasing items such as sugar, coffee, meats & cheese.  In a nutshell, for those who don't already know - During the war, it became necessary to ration food, gas, and clothing in order to control supply and demand and deal with the shortages of items that were not as readily available.  There were red stamps, blue stamps, red points, blue points...I'm sure it was difficult trying to keep it all straight.  But the sacrifice was necessary.

And while we're talking about what was going on in the 1940's, my grandparents had also recently been included on a new federal census.  My maternal grandparents were - I hope - in Paulding County, Ohio.  At least that's where I plan on looking for them on April 2 when the 1940 census images are FINALLY released.  My paternal side?  That's slightly trickier since they were not yet married, but I believe that my grandmother was in Converse, Indiana - although I was just told yesterday that they moved around town a lot depending on where they could find the cheapest rent.  Super.  As for her future husband?  I'm going to start in Williams County, Ohio and keep my fingers crossed. That's where he was in 1930.  By 1940, however, I'm unsure if his parents were still married which means it could be anyone's guess as to where he was living.

Do you know what would make this all so much easier?  Having the 1940 U.S. Federal Census indexed and searchable by last name.  I know that one day soon enough it will be, and the sooner the better.  But the only way that will happen is by getting us all to help volunteer.  Feel free to head on over to The 1940 U.S. Census Community Project and look into the effort to help get the 1940 Census indexed as quickly as possible, making it easier for everyone to search through.

Who knows, we all may even learn a little history in the process ;)


Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking Ahead...

(Yes, I have a few more days in the month of February to finish writing and introducing you to a few select maternal ancestors - don't worry, they're coming!)

Making the decision to get involved with the release of the 1940 US Census earlier this week, and being completely involved with my family history as part of my blog, last night I went to bed thinking about my family during the 1940's.  The thought process was incredibly stream-lined.

When I think 1940's, and I'm sure like most people, immediately my thoughts turn towards the war.  But when I personally think of the war, I think directly of my ancestor who fought in the war and was a prisoner of the war for a short time.  I also instinctively began thinking of the packet of letters that I currently have in my possession - letters that were exchanged between a young man and woman before they were married, and then continued after they were married and were separated from each other due to his time served in the United States Army.

I sometimes wish that these were the incredibly romantic, drizzled with ooze and beautiful sap that we will often see in Hollywood's portrayal of letters between lovers during wartime.  But these are written by a normal guy who was in love with a normal girl.   A guy and a gal whose spelling is sometimes off, and where run-on sentences abound.  But what are you going to do?  It's honest, heart-felt emotion at a time of uncertainty.  Sometimes I'll read them and wonder why they wasted a stamp for that, and other letters I will read and I can feel the need they had for wanting to be together.

So - in honor of, and with the release of the 1940 US Census images looming just ahead , I will begin to share these letters with you.  I may decide to share a little insight of what I know personally with regards to what was written, and sometimes I will simply let the letters speak for themselves. 

And while we're at it, don't forget that you can still help get involved with the 1940 US Census community and help index the images once they're released!  These new images are going to provide a whole new set of answers to questions that we have currently unanswered.  On April 2, when I look at a 1940 image (because oh yes, I will be looking at an image on April 2), the information I see will include:

Where they lived
If their home was owned or rented - and if it was a farm!
The value of their home or monthly rental
Each person's name who lived there and their relationship to the head of household.
Age at their last birthday and marital status
Place of birth
Their residence 5 years prior (This is new!!)
Employments status and employment information

and also supplementary questions which include but are not limited to the birthplace of the father and mother, and whether the person was a veteran.  We may also gain insight into our female ancestors by hopefully discovering if they had been married more than once, the age at their first marriage and the number of live children born to them.

Whew!  That's a lot of information!  And with a population of just over 132 million...that's a lot of names to be indexed.

Sign up here and help us out, and while you're at it - enjoy this great little video.  The 1940 Census - are you in it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

1940 in 40 Days

The countdown is on.

In just 40 days (okay, now it's more like 39 1/2), the 1940 US Census will be released to the public. It has been referred to as the "largest, most comprehensive, and most recent record set available that records the names of those who were living in the United States at the time the census was taken."

The people who appear in the 1940 US Census are part of what newsman, Tom Brokaw referred to as "The Greatest Generation".  They survived the Great Depression, many men fought in the second World War, and their women sacrificed here at home.  These individuals understand hard work, industry, and have seen innovations in technology that we probably take for granted today.  This generation deserves to have their records preserved.

Personally, I'm wired.  Excited.  Delirious.  Quite honestly, I'm just downright antsy to set my eyes on these records.  Safe to say, pretty much everyone in the genealogy community is.  For years, we've been scrolling each decade from 1790-1930 locating our ancestors, or at least trying to.  (Well, except for that blasted 1890 census that is on all of our genealogical wishlists.)  But let's face it...it's time and we're ready for a new set of records.  It's time to move ahead another 10 years and see where our ancestors have moved on to with their lives.

I'm lucky.  I already know where my family members were in 1940, so I'll be able to locate them in the records with some ease (some - I know it's going to take a bit of effort) - this includes two sets of grandparents, a pair of uncles and an aunt, and great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, and yes, even 3x great-grandparents!  This census will answer questions for so many of us, but only if we're able to locate those whom we seek. After all, it's not as if the census records are released completely indexed ya know.  And that's why I'm helping.  

Groups have united to make searching the new census records as easy and as quick as possible, and they're looking for help with indexing these census images.  In the 1940's, Americans stepped up when they were called to the challenge.  Now it's time for this generation, MY generation to step up to the challenge and help index the 1940 US Census.  If you're curious...if you think you might like to help...check it out for yourself.  But be forewarned - you may catch the genealogy bug!!




Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oops...Commercial Break

If you're following along with my family this month, I'm sorry to report that you're going to have to wait for the latest installment.  Don't worry...I WILL write it, and the reason behind the delay really is a very good reason!

I pulled out the family file for the next ancestor that I was hoping to introduce.  Inside the file, I found photocopies from a family history that a cousin had written some time ago.  Since obtaining those pages, I had actually purchased her books for myself, so I proceeded to pull them out and look up the family.

I was completely blown away - to say the very least.

I found where my ancestor's family, the family of a 2nd wife, and yet one other family line all come together in some crazy weird way.  Granted,it's kind-of cool to be able to trace your way back to an ancestor through two different people in your family, but when it happens with three people, and you just weren't expecting it...

Wow!  Completely blown away at the moment.  And I have a lot of reading to catch up on that I had completely overlooked previously to sort this out as easily and as simply as possible.

Stay tuned, family readers.  We will return to your previously scheduled program as quickly as possible.