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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice  by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Recording Census Data

First, find out from texts how the census is organized in your country and how to properly cite an individual census volume and page. For example in England and Wales the Piece and Folio numbers provide adequate citation for 1851-1901, but for 1841 one also needs the Book Number.

Two records that can assist you as you read the census: the Running Log (see below) which keeps track of where you are if you are searching page by page, and the Transcript (see below) which is the detailed recording of who you found.

Census Running Log

When reading a census record start by heading your notes with:

  • Today’s date
  • Database or microfilm number
  • Geographical area
  • Census date
  • Who you are looking for

Then write the first Piece (or other identification) Number followed by the successive Enumeration District Numbers and the parish names as you proceed through the census record if you are searching page by page. A tick (check mark) can be used for successive Enumeration Districts covering the same parish. In this way when you do find great grandpa you will know exactly where you are and be able to document it properly.

When you have to stop work, note which folio number you stopped at (f.5v in Chart 46).

When an interesting entry is found, record it on that family’s transcript sheet. At the end of your search make a note on the Running Log of which families were found as, for example ‘See JUPP’. If you only searched a partial section of the census, be sure to note this at the bottom of your Running Log for future reference.

A Census Running Log
A Census Running Log.jpg
At home these Running Logs give you a complete record of which parishes you searched, together with what families you searched for and found. It is best to enter your search details in to your genealogy software while it is fresh in your mind.

Census Transcript

Census transcript forms can be obtained from a variety of sources. FamilySearch Centers have: for the U.S. 1790-1920; for Canada 1851-1901; for Britain only a generic one to 1881; and for Ireland only 1901. Local Family History/Genealogy Societies and genealogical supply companies also carry similar forms. As they contain much information census forms are fairly difficult to create yourself. An example of a correctly filled out census transcript is shown in Chart 47. I have found it best to file the completed transcript sheets by family and then by Piece Number because this is the way I would check if I had already found a certain reference.

Genealogy software programs allow you to enter the text details or transcription, as well as add a digital image when entering your source citation. It is good practice to do this with all information you find for your ancestor.

A Census Transcript
A Census Transcript.jpg


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 11 March 2014, at 16:26.
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