Wanderings From Your President




Hunting season is all year long in genealogy.


I have a feeling that when most of us started trying to trace our families, we did not realize what we were getting into.  As you know, we all probably started out thinking this will be easy. We know our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, so how hard can it be?  When we start filling out a family group sheet, we find out that we do not know as much as we thought.


One of the first places we should look is at Federal Census.  The federal census records are perhaps the most valuable of the federal records for the greatest number of genealogists.  The Federal government started doing census in 1790 and it was taken every 10 years.  With the exception of 1890, you can research all of these online. (Most of the 1890 census was lost in a fire.)  Remember that names could be spelled differently than what we think is right, depending on the census taker and how he thinks it was spelled or what he heard.


In looking at census, you may find children you did not know about or that other relatives lived in the same household. Also, a first spouse may have died and another marriage have taken place and two families combined. Did they live where we thought?


The first census in 1790 asked about free white male or female, slaves and other free persons.  The next few times the census was taken they broke down male and female by age groups in a household, the same with slaves.  The 1830 census asked if they were deaf, dumb or blind.  The 1840 census asked about military service.  In 1850, insane, idiot, pauper or convict was added.  Each time a census was taken, one or two more questions were asked, such as occupation, eligible or not to vote, single, married, or widowed, and years married.  In 1900, it asks how many children the mother had and how many were living; this is the first time a year of immigration is noted.  In 1930, they were asked if they had a radio.

The first Federal Census taken in Iowa was in 1840.


Some states took a state census.  For example, Iowa had a census in 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915 and 1925.  We have a book in our library that will tell what years are available.

I hope everyone has used United States Census, a valuable resource.