Could New Census Data Change Family Trees?
In the time before the Internet’s existence, genealogy was extremely difficult. In order to chase down records you’d have to request them from government agencies, or contact local genealogy clubs for any records they held. This was an expensive process, and sometimes required extensive travel to visit libraries that held community records about the past. The Internet changed all this.
Through digitization and the ability to build searchable databases of genealogical data it became far easier to piece together the stories of our ancestors. The ability to compare birth certificate images, marriage licenses, newspaper articles, and other records in one place took out one of the most confusing parts of genealogy. A single piece of documentation sometimes isn’t enough to clear up whether the person you’re looking at was one of your ancestors or just someone with the same name. By being able to cross-reference, the job became much simpler, though a human eye is still needed to confirm accuracy.
The next step beyond that was the ability to generate and share family trees with other people. This brought a new level of interaction between people. 10th cousins could find one another and share what personal data they had, such as a photo in a family album, or signed letters, that only a family member would keep. These extremely personal mementos are some of the most prized pieces of data about an ancestor. They fill in gaps that no governmental record can fill. Sharing information is what the Internet was made for, and this is a prime example.
Lately, there’s been a new trend of having individuals volunteer to digitize and categorize genealogical records. A recent example is the 1940 Census. This data was released only a couple weeks ago as of this writing, and many people are pitching in to turn this set of 3.8 million images into a searchable database. As the volunteers finish with these records they’re being uploaded to different sites where they can be searched for freely by anyone. So far, the state of Delaware has been completed, with more to come soon. It’s an exciting time to begin doing research because of the freshness of this data. Census records are released after 72 years, so it’s relatively easy to start tracing back from that point and going from there.Continued on the next page