About four decades ago I was looking for an ancestor in an 1850 Jefferson County, Florida census. Those were the not so good old days when we didn’t have computer search engines or Ancestry.com.
I spent a good bit of time looking for him. I knew he was there because of an index. Sadly, though, the index I was using didn’t show the page numbers; and I was too inexperienced to realize that there were other indices that did have the page numbers.Fortunately, Jefferson County was and still is sparsely populated, so it didn’t take too long. I learned something that day, though. By the time I found him I had a good idea of who else lived near by his family and who else was already living in the county.
I recognized a lot of the names, because I grew up in Jefferson County. Not in 1850, of course. As far as I know, there are no vampires living there. :). A lot of people I grew up with, though, had the same surnames as many of those in that census.
Finally, there he was, William H. Andrews, the second from the last name on the census; and immediately below was a declaration and his signature. He turned out to be the census enumerator. All of it was written by him, and his handwriting was very good.
I learned a lot about about him and his family that day, but I also learned something that has continued to help me with my genealogy research over the years. I didn’t realize how special this genealogy technique was or that it actually had a name until I went to the 2015 National Genealogical Society Annual Conference in St. Charles, Missouri last year.
There on the agenda was a class about recreating an ancestor’s community of who lived nearby and who became relatives later or were already relatives. It seems I had stumbled on a research technique.
Now that I’m writing a book about William Andrew’s wife, Mary, this information became very important as I tried to reconstruct her life using any information I can find.
I’m at the National Genealogical Society’s 38th Annual Family History Conference, entitled “Exploring the Centuries: Footprints in Time”. It is being held this week in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Florida is truly a diverse state and has always been, including Native Americans, Spanish, Irish, English, Welsh, French and African Americans. The only group they left out in the brochure are the snowbirds. These migrations left many, many footprints over time; and the state is full of family researchers working to discover those footprints before they are swept away forever.
Many of those family researchers belong to the Florida State Genealogical Society, who is the host for this conference. There are dozens of Floridians who are volunteering down here. The opening address tomorrow focuses on how ordinary Floridians such as the farmer, the teacher, and the laborer shaped Florida’s history and today contributes to our understanding of who we are.
Over the next four days a variety of lectures will feature all kinds of genealogical tools such as research techniques useful to both the beginning and the advanced researcher, a DNA chromosome mapping workshop, and other aspects of DNA tests and results analysis, just to name a few. Other lecture topics also focus on Jewish, African American, Caribbean, Florida Cracker (my words), military and British Isles research.
It is an excellent opportunity to hone my research skills. I’ll let you know how the next four days go.