Monthly Archives: July 2012

Canada’s 1921 Census

Yes, I know this blog is mainly about southern research, but with the increased use of transcontinental trains and eventually cars came a myriad of migration possibilities for our ancestors.  Many of us in the US and beyond have some connection with Canada, and knowing how to do research there is critical.  Where do we often start in our American research?  Why, the census, of course!  The same is true in Canada.  That said, I am pleased to report that the long-awaited release of the 1921 Canada census will be on June 1, 2013.  I can hardly wait!

As with the United States, the census was taken in Canada every 10 years, but unlike the US, the Canada census fell during the years ending with “1”: 1851, 1861, and so on, up to 1911.  In some of the provinces, particularly in the west, there were extra censuses taken during those in-between years such as 1906 and 1916.  These have been released; however, Canada’s privacy laws are stricter than ours and require a lapse of 92 years between the time of the census and its release.  So much migration was occuring in the early 20th century with the advent of the “motor car” and the industrial age with its increasingly urban lifestyles; it can be a challenge to track ancestors with all of this moving around!  Sometimes my research leads me to Canada’s records, but finding anything after 1916 to “connect the dots” is tough.  So, after a long and somewhat impatient wait, I know what I will be doing on the computer next June!

Photograph taken by Angela Lucas in July 1973 at Emerson, Manitoba

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Posted by on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in Online Resources


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1940 Census: Southern States Added

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census is still in the process of being indexed; however, many states have been completed and their searchable indexes are available online.  This includes the following southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

While all states are online, the indexes are an invaluable time-and-sanity saver.  One free source is  As of 12 July 2012, the following states are indexed:


Just when you think you know everything about your immediate family, the 1940 census can yield some interesting surprises.  Some of the information includes:

  • the family’s residence in 1935, their address (name of street and house number)
  • employment information for persons age 14 and older, income earned in 1939 and number weeks employed full-time in 1939
  • whether the home was on a farm or not
  • value of home and whether it was rented or owned
  • race
  • those absent from household denoted with “Ab”

The 1940 census also asked supplementary questions to provide a random sample of about 5 percent of the population. These were usually, but not always, asked of people enumerated on lines 14 and 29.  Some of those questions included:

•birthplace of mother and father

•native language

•veteran status (including widow or minor child of a veteran)

•Social Security details

•occupation, industry, and class of worker

•marriage information for women (married more than once, age at first marriage, number of children

If the state you need is not indexed yet, don’t despair.  There are ways to find the enumeration district if you know some basic information about the family’s location.  Then, it is a matter of scrolling through the pages to find your family.  This is easier to do in a small town rather than a large city, but it can be done.  Or, you can wait for the index to be completed.

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Posted by on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Online Resources


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Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama

Maple Hill Cemetery is a wonderful place full of history, large trees, poignant stories, and colorful characters.  Established in 1822, it is the oldest and largest cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama.  If you have ancestors in that area, chances are they may be buried at Maple Hill.

Maple Hill Cemetery in October 1982

To search the online database of over 21, 000 names, go to the City of Huntsville’s website:

You can also try

I have frequented Maple Hill Cemetery and am more than willing to take photographs or do research on the families interred there.  You can inquire about this service by selecting the “Contact Me” tab and sending me an email.  I would love to have an excuse to wander through this historic landmark!


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Alabama’s State Archives

The Alabama Department of Archives and History, located in Montgomery, has a wonderful collection of records that are a valuable resource for anyone conducting research in Alabama.  Their website, , has a searchable database of records.  It also has a comprehensive list of links to online Alabama resources, maps, and other goodies.  Located at 624 Washington Avenue, the archives is open Monday through Friday and one Saturday each month.  Check it out!

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 in Online Resources


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Huntsville Depot

This photo of the Huntsville [Alabama] Depot, entitled,”Captured by Union Forces,” was published about 1962 in a local newspaper.  The caption under the photo says, “Huntsville’s railway depot, site of the capture of locomotives and railway cars by Federal troops 100 years ago, still stands.  Forces under Union Gen. Ormsby M. Miller cut the strategic Memphis and Charleston Railroad at Huntsville Friday, April 11, 1862.”

My mother intended to mail this clipping to my grandmother in Minnesota because she sometimes visited Alabama by train, and our family picked her up at this depot on those much-awaited visits.  Built in the 1850s by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the Huntsville Depot not only served the public with passenger train service, but also served as the company’s corporate offices for its eastern division.  It boasted a large and lavish lobby that was used as a waiting area for passenger train travel.

The depot opened in 1860 shortly before the Civil War began.  During the 1862 capture, the Union soldiers not only took control of a very strategic point on the rail line, but they also detained Confederates as prisoners and kept them on the third floor.  One of the most fascinating scenes inside the depot today is the wall of graffiti left by those Confederate prisoners!

The U.S. government returned the depot to the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in disrepair after the Civil War, but the company was able to eventually resume its passenger service after a period of rebuilding.  Many greetings and goodbyes took place here over the years.  Passenger service at the Huntsville Depot ended in 1968.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2002.  The depot now serves as a transportation museum and a symbol of Huntsville’s historic growth from a small cotton town to a center of space technology.

Huntsville Depot in 2010


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The Great Photo Sort: Part 1

“All these pictures have gotten out of hand.  I’m going to organize them once and for all!”

Sound familiar?  We make these sweeping declarations and start out with high hopes until life intervenes.  Organizing the family history documents and photographs can be tricky, not to mention time-consuming, and every genealogist has their own way of doing things.  For me, first organizing documents and notes by my 8 great-grandparents’ surnames was a great place to begin.  I created a system of files and binders sorted by those surnames, sometimes with subcategories.  Sorting and preserving the family pictures was the next natural step.

For photos, I decided at first to use a similar filing system that I used for documents and notes, but I wanted to keep the photos separate from the papers because the paper can degrade the old photographs.  Some photos were with the documents and some were in various places such as photo boxes and tucked in between pages of photo albums–not attached but just tucked inside, so if I lifted the photo album a certain way, they slid out!  Is this how I treat something I value?  Some of those photographs are originals, onlys, one-of-a-kind mementos of my ancestors.  Enough!  So, the Great Photo Sort began.

 Where to start?  It was overwhelming.  The first hurdle was to pull all the photos together in one central location and to just begin with a manageable amount: one box, one folder, one album, one drawer.   It was time to dive in, but I had to draw a line somewhere, so I decided to focus first on loose photographs–those not attached to album pages. The attached ones would have to wait.

I thought I’d have eight piles for the great-grandparents’ surnames, but it turned out that I had many photos of a few family lines and almost none of the others.  So, I switched to just the four grandparents’ lines.  Something I had not anticipated were the many photos of friends, neighbors, and scenery.  Keep or toss?  Those became new piles to deal with later….not indefinitely, but later.  That’s part of the reason why this post is subtitled Part 1.

The second challenge was to go quickly without stopping to analyze every picture except to decide on a surname pile in which to place it.  There were many photos that went into the I-don’t-know pile.  I knew that getting sidetracked would be my downfall if I went that route, so I kept going until the all the loose photos were sorted.  The process did take several days, but I was willing to live with the mess temporarily.  Occasionally, I did pause to study a photo before finally admitting that I still did not know who the people were.

The third step was to call my sister, my genealogy buddy, for help with the I-don’t-know pile.  Genealogy can be a solitary pursuit, but it sure helps to have a buddy in the family with the same interest!  It’s especially handy if that person lives in the same town.  Together, we were able to figure out to which surname pile most of the unknowns should go.  Then we made a separate pile to show an older relative on the next visit.  (Action item on the do-list: plan that visit soon!)  My sister also had stories about some of the relatives in the pictures, which turned an ordinary afternoon into a most memorable one.  With her encouragement, I was able to let go of some unknown friends and blurry vacation photos.  To let go meant to actually throw away.  I did keep the ones of interesting scenes, such as the ones my parents took of an unfinished Mt. Rushmore on a trip to South Dakota, and others I thought may one day be useful for placing family and events in certain locations.

I needed to wind down The Great Photo Sort: Part 1 so I could use my kitchen table again and of course, to have a feeling of success for getting this far.  There were so many pictures in a few of the surname piles that I decided to sort them by decades—1910s, 1920s, and so on. I put them into acid-free photo boxes by one surname or two, depending on quantity.  Now I had my pictures organized somewhat chronologically.  The system wasn’t perfect yet, but at least it was now somewhat useful for research instead of just a mess.

Old photographs can be an amazing wealth of information.  As a genealogist, I could not do a careful analysis with my pictures all in a jumble.  I noticed during the Great Photo Sort that there were names, dates, and even addresses on the backs of some photos, which caused me to say a silent thanks to the ancestral angel in heaven that wrote such captions!  Was I finished?  No, not by a long shot, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that I was well on my way.  I knew I needed to go back later to write on the backs of unlabeled photos, to study and make notes, and to decide what to do with those old, falling-apart, photo-damaging albums of the past.  My intention was to create a new, safe, and logical way to display all the photographs, preferably in archival-quality albums.  In the meantime I had created a huge sense of accomplishment and a handy system.  I also reclaimed my kitchen table!

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Genealogy, Photographs, Preservation


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