Friday, January 28, 2022

Pop Quiz, Part 3: 1950 US Census Vocabulary

This is the answer sheet for the vocabulary terms in Part 2 of my quiz series. 

5. Naturalized? AP

In answering the question about naturalization, enumerators would write "American Parents" when an individual was born to US citizens in another country or at sea. For more, see the full Urban & Rural Enumerator's Reference Manual on Google books here.

6. Sample Person - How would a person be designated as a sample?

On every page of the population schedule, enumerators were instructed to ask additional "sample" questions of people who they listed on certain line numbers. The line numbers varied by page, to add a measure of randomness. So on one page, a separate sample person would be designated on each of lines 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, and 26. On the next page, the sample person would be designated on each of lines 2, 7, 12, 17, 22, and 27. For more, see the middle of the page on Steve Morse's 1950 discussion here.

7. T-Night - What does the T stand for?

T is for transient. Two nights (April 11 and April 13, 1950) were designated for enumerators to visit hotels, hostels, flop houses, and other places where people lived temporarily. For more, see the History Hub blog post here.

8. $10,000+ - When would this be shown?

If an individual answering the sample question about income earned more than $10,000 in the year 1949, the enumerator would record it as $10,000+ rather than entering a specific higher amount. For more, see here for the History Hub discussion of sample questions and enumerators' instructions for recording answers.

I hope you enjoyed these pop quiz posts as you prep for the 1950 US Census release on April 1.

PS: Want to download an original Form P1? See this page on the US Census Bureau site.

And read more about getting ready for the 1950 US Census release on my summary page here.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Pop Quiz, Part 2: 1950 US Census Vocabulary

This is Part 2 of the 1950 US Census vocabulary quiz!

First, the answers to questions in Part 1. 

1. Class of worker: P, G, O, NP

P = working for a private employer

G = working for a government agency

O = working in your own business (for pay)

NP = "no pay," as in working without pay on the family farm or in the family business

For more about the 1950 questions, see this page on the iPums site.

2. Enumeration District 

This is defined as the geographic area that one Census enumerator could cover during the Census period. In major metro areas, a single city block filled with apartment buildings might be one entire ED. For more, see Steve Morse's FAQs here.

3. Form P1 

This form is the "Population and Housing Schedule," the main questionnaire completed by enumerators in counting people for the Census. For more, see this History Hub article

4. Inmate - Who would be listed this way in the Census?

Not just inmates in correctional facilities, but also individuals in mental institutions, homes for the aged, and other institutional residences. For a lot more detail, see a pdf government report on the 1950 institutional population here.


Now, it's quiz time again. 

Test yourself: Do you know the answers to these four additional vocabulary questions? 

5. Naturalized? AP - What do those two code letters indicate?

6. Sample Person - How would a person be designated as a sample?

7. T-Night - What does the T stand for?

8. $10,000+ - When would this be shown?

. . . Answers soon!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Pop Quiz, Part 1: 1950 US Census Vocabulary

How well do you know your 1950 US Census vocabulary? 

Here are four specialized terms or codes you'll encounter when this mid-century Census is released on April 1. 

Test yourself:

1. Class of worker: P, G, O, NP - Decode this alphabet soup!

2. Enumeration District - What does this mean?

3. Form P1 - What's the full name for this form? 

4. Inmate - Who would be listed this way in the Census?

. . . Answers to be revealed soon, along with a quiz about four more vocabulary terms! 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Just Curious: Did My Immigrant Ancestors Know English?

As I write bite-sized bios of my great-grandparents, who died long before I was born, I find I'm curious about their daily lives. 

For instance: Did great-grandma Leni Kunstler Farkas (1865-1938) and great-grandpa Moritz Farkas (1857-1936) become fluent enough to speak, read, and write in English? 

Both were born in Hungary (in an area now in Ukraine). Both were, I'm confident without any real proof, able to read and write in their native Hungarian language. Why? Because Leni was the daughter of a family that owned property and operated an inn...Moritz supervised his in-laws' vineyard and leased lands to farm. They interacted with officials, not just family members, and would have needed some level of proficiency in Hungarian.

Comparing family stories and research 

Research and family stories agree on many aspects of these immigrant ancestors' lives. Moritz arrived in New York City in August, 1899, Leni arrived in November, 1900, and their Hungarian-born children followed in two waves. Moritz worked as a presser and cloak maker within the New York City garment industry. Leni was in charge of their children and ruled the household. 

The youngest kids went to city public schools and picked up English quickly and naturally. The older children (mid-to-late teens) worked during the day and went to night school to learn English. At the end of the work week, they handed their pay packets to Leni. She doled out carfare and lunch money for the next week, and kept the rest for rent, food, and other expenses (including an occasional summer getaway of her own, according to family lore). 

Both Leni and Moritz lived in New York City for three decades. Moritz worked outside the family, while Leni may have had dealings with landlords, shopkeepers, school officials, and others in the neighborhood.

But how well could they speak, read, and/or write English? My oldest cousins, who were toddlers when these ancestors died, have distant memories that could only be based on actual conversations, in English, with Leni and Moritz. What other clues can I gather?

Start with the US Census

My first step was to return to the US Census, which often asked about proficiency in English. Interestingly inconsistent answers!

  • 1900 Census: Moritz lived as a boarder in someone else's Lower East Side tenement apartment. For the question "speak English?" the enumerator had originally written YES but overwrote it and the answer is illegible.
  • 1910 Census: YES, Moritz can speak English, according to this record, but NO, Leni's answer is "Magyar."  
  • 1920 Census: NO, neither Moritz nor Leni is recorded as being able to speak English. Their native tongue is "Jewish," according to this Census.
  • 1930 Census: YES, both Moritz and Leni are recorded as being able to speak English. The language spoken at home before coming to America is listed as "Magyar."
Next stop: naturalization documentation

Next, I looked at Moritz's Petition for Naturalization, dated June of 1906. He had been in America for nearly seven years at that point. 

As shown at top, the commissioner who signed this petition indicated that no, Moritz could NOT "read or write the English language intelligently."

So...yes or no?

My conclusion, based on this research, is that for the first decade in America, neither of these ancestors could do more than understand a bit of basic English and possibly answer with a stock phrase. 

I believe, based on my research and my cousins' dim memories, that eventually, both Leni and Moritz understood spoken English fairly well, and could converse in English with people outside the family, even if their vocabulary was not extensive or sophisticated.

I doubt either ancestor could read or write very much English by the time they passed away. Most likely, they (like so many immigrants) relied on their children all their lives to be interpreters and read/write English when necessary. 

-- This is my post for week 4 of Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors series, with the theme of "curious."

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Seeking City Directories for Your 1950 US Census Prep?

With 71 days until the release of the 1950 US Census, this is the time to find 1950ish home addresses for ancestors who will be in that Census. 

A great tool for finding an ancestor's street address is in a city or phone directory published around the time of the Census (1948-1952, for instance). Expand the search to earlier and later years if needed. 

Not every directory for every year is available online--some may be available for research in local libraries or archives if you can visit in person. 

Family Search has links to city directories online, indicating both free and fee-based sources, as shown at top in a page from its invaluable wiki. has lots of city directories. I went to the card catalog and did a search for "U.S., city directories," and 15 state-by-state collections turned up, as shown here. There are other directories in the card catalog, as well--but again, not necessarily in the time period for the 1950 US Census, so check dates carefully.

For more links to US city directories, check The Ancestor Hunt and Cyndi's List, which both have links to directories in various states and for various years.

Also check, which has lots of directories from all over the country for a wide range of years. At left, a screen shot of part of a page from the 1950 directory for Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. 

If you take the time now to locate ancestors' addresses, you can turn them into Enumeration Districts using the handy ED Finder by Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub, and be ready to browse the population schedule on April 1. Good luck!

For more about the release of the 1950 US Census, and how to get ready to find ancestors on April 1, see my summary page of posts here

Monday, January 17, 2022

Favorite Photo That Led to a Breakthrough


This photo of a distinguished man in uniform was passed down in my husband's family for a century.

We had no idea who it was until 2011. 

After I posted the photo on my blog, two wonderful readers recognized the uniform, the big breakthrough I needed.

Capt. John Daniel Slatter

This is Captain John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954), in full regalia as Bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders of Toronto.

With a name and dates, I knew just where he should fit in the family tree.

Capt. Slatter is an older brother of hubby's grandma, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). Now I had a new research angle to explore!

Over the next few months, I corresponded with the 48th Highlanders' museum in Toronto. Later, hubby and I drove up for a visit. We learned a great deal about Capt. Slatter's military career from the curators. In turn, we left them a family tree and biographical information to supplement the military artifacts and records in the museum's possession.

Bite-Sized Bio

More recently, I wrote a bite-sized bio to memorialize this legendary bandmaster, posting it on Family Search, Find a Grave, and other sites. It wasn't easy to squeeze his personal life and professional accomplishments into four paragraphs (with sources summarized at the end--see below). 

Thanks to eagle-eyed readers getting me started with the initial identification, I've now traced the Slatter family further back in time and can memorialize more ancestors with bite-sized bios on multiple genealogy websites. 

* This is my week 3 post for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge, with the theme of "favorite photo."

Thursday, January 13, 2022

"Of the Time" 1950 US Census Ads and Training

While impatiently waiting for the release of the 1950 US Census on April 1, I've been learning a little more about what went on behind the scenes in the buildup to the actual count.

1950 ads for the Census

The U.S. government worked with Madison Avenue on a massive advertising campaign to get businesses to support and promote the 1950 US Census. 

The Ad Council made available a number of preformatted print ads for local businesses to run in local publications in advance of Census Day.

The ad shown here addresses concerns about confidentiality. "It's OK, boys: You can tell him everything...He's the Census Man!" [Note: Many enumerators were female, of course, but remember, these ads were very much of the time.]

The ad tells readers the Census has no connection with those dreaded "revenooors." It's fun to look back at those ads, which show the Census Bureau was well aware that people worried about answering personal questions asked by enumerators. 

1950 enumerator training 

In the middle of the last century, schools and businesses often used film strips for training purposes. A trainer or teacher would watch the images projected on the screen and try to synchronize the separate recorded narration on a record or cassette.

Training for the 1950 US Census involved a number of film strips. Read more here, in the fascinating History Hub post by Claire Kluskens. 

See some of these "of the time" film strips on Dr. Joel Weintraub's YouTube Channel here.

To read the script for the training film strip titled "Income--What It Is and How to Report It!" click here

Despite the coffee stain on page 8, and tape fixing page 9, the typed script is quite readable. It offers insight into how the Census Bureau instructed enumerators about collecting income info from the public, again very "of the time."

Getting in the mood for the 1950 US Census? We have only 78 days to wait for the release!

For links to more information about the 1950 US Census release, see my summary page here. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Memorializing Little Ones Who Died Young

I admit it--I get a bit teary-eyed thinking of the babes in my family tree who died too young. I want their names to live on, by putting them on public family trees and making sure their burial places are recorded.

How Miriam wound up in hubby's family tree

Today I'm focusing on Miriam Louise Wise (1925-1926). This little girl's father was Clifford "Buck" Wise (1895-1963) and her mother was Edith Macklin Wise (1897-1947). After Miriam's early death, Clifford and Edith were happy to welcome a second daughter, Janice (1927-1988), bringing light back into their lives, as I know from family letters. 

Clifford was widowed in 1947 and the following year, he married my father-in-law's first cousin, Edith Eleanor Baker (1901-1989), who became a devoted and loving stepmom to Janice. This connection with the Wise family is how little Miriam Louise Wise wound up in my hubby's family tree.

Making sure Miriam is remembered

Miriam's parents (both on my family tree already) are buried in Acacia Masonic Memorial Park Cemetery in Mayfield Hts, Ohio, and memorialized on Find a Grave. But until now, I hadn't looked carefully for Miriam's final resting place.

By searching for "more Wise Memorials" in the same cemetery, I came upon a memorial page for "Marian Wise," birth/death unknown (see image above). The plot is exactly where Miriam's parents are buried. 

My conclusion: Marian is surely Miriam. Interestingly, the obit in the Fremont Daily Messenger (which I've ordered*) calls her Mariam Louise Wise, but the Ohio death index lists her as Miriam. Family letters also call her Miriam. 

On Find a Grave, I submitted edits to the memorial page's manager, correcting Miriam's name and including her dates. I also posted an image of Miriam's name in the death index. Miriam is already on the tree at FamilySearch and on two Ancestry public trees, courtesy of relatives in the Wise family. I'm adding her to all my Wood family trees over time. 

It's comforting that Miriam will not be forgotten, because her name and dates are documented in more than one place by more than one person. Rest in peace, little Miriam.

Turns out, the obit does name this baby correctly as Miriam Louise Wise. She died of "telescoping of the bowels" (causing dangerous blockage). Doctors operated, unsuccessfully, sad to say. 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Bite-Sized Bios for Earlier vs Recent Ancestors

When I write a bite-sized bio for ancestor who was known to me or my relatives, I frequently have so much material that I have to pick and choose to make the bio both brief and informative. 

There are so many recent genealogical sources available, as well as family letters, diaries, and family photo albums, that I have a rich cache of content. Plus, older cousins who remember these people can share stories that make the bios more vivid and add personality well beyond the basic facts.

What can I learn about earlier ancestors?

However, writing a bio for an ancestor who died before the 20th century can be more of a challenge because nobody alive today knew that person and rarely do I have personalized sources. 

Still, my bio for someone who died more than a century ago usually includes: birth, marriage(s), and death dates and places (where known); parents' names; spouse(s) name(s); occupations; residence(s) and land ownership; military service (if applicable); children's names; geographical movements; and some social/historical context.

Sources for writing bios of earlier ancestors

I get these details from sources such as (but not limited to) multiple Census records, vital records, military records, naturalization records, city directories, newspapers, obits, and county histories. I use Wikipedia, history books, and other sources to add a bit of background, such as about immigration trends or frontier life, when I weave the basics into an interesting story told in my own words. 

Sometimes there are scant sources for a much earlier ancestor. Then I write what I can, emphasizing details that I do know--such as where that ancestor is in the birth order of siblings, how many of that ancestor's siblings survived to adulthood, what that ancestor did for a living, whether that ancestor married, and so on. These bios are not as long or rich as bios for more recent ancestors, but I do try to make them interesting and bring out the human angle.

Other times, I can dig up a considerable amount of content for an ancestor who died more than a century in the past. When my husband and I were in Indiana a few years ago, we cranked a local library's microfilm reader to research ancestors in 19th century newspapers. There we found a wonderfully detailed obituary for hubby's 2d great-grandfather, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896)--a truly great source for an ancestor bio!

The woodcut portrait of Benjamin McClure, shown at top, is also from a 19th century newspaper accessed via microfilm at that same local library.* I've posted the woodcut on FamilySearch and other sites where I post bios and images, to bring this ancestor to life.

*About copyright: The Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell, writes about copyright and newspapers from time to time--including this old but still informative post. Also see this brief Library of Congress post about newspaper databases. Note that I'm not an expert on the legalities of newspapers/books and copyright, so please do your own homework before using any published content, either words or images, from the past!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Take Your Genealogy to the Next Level via RootsTech 2022

Ready to take your genealogy to the next level? 

Register for RootsTech here.

It's free, it's entirely virtual, and it's worldwide

Although the official kickoff is on March 3rd, presentations will remain available for months afterward.

Learn from experts in their fields and check out the virtual exhibits featuring new products and new technology. 

Watch presentations at your own pace, whenever you wish. This is an opportunity to get tips from the best in the world and expand your knowledge of genealogy!

Best of all, did I mention this incredible conference is free? 

PS: For more, see the RootsTech blog on, here.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Caption Crazy: Foundation for Future Genealogy

This is my year to go caption crazy. Before I dive into the latest batch of ancestral photos that await scanning, captioning, and storage, I'm completing a photo book featuring highlights of 2021. Even in a pandemic year, my husband Wally and I had some adventures and family gatherings that didn't involve teleconferencing ;)

I began this photo book tradition at the end of 2008, with a slender softcover book featuring favorite photos of family and vacation fun of that year, complete with brief captions.

Since then, I've created at least one photo book per year and sometimes more than one. At right, a selection of these photo books, filled with colorful images plus captions that remind us of what we did each year, the ups and downs of our lives.

For the next few days, I'll be finishing up the full-year photo book for 2021 and pressing the button to print. 

The memories are precious to my husband and me--and the captions naming names and places will be a great foundation for future generations interested in our family's history.

A bonus: Photo books are professional, look polished, and are more likely to be kept by future genealogists because they are full of family history being made year by year!

- "Foundation" is the first prompt in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge for 2022. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A Colorful Postcard to Kick Off 2022


This colorful postcard was sent from a young Wood cousin living in Toledo, Ohio to his first cousin living in Cleveland, Ohio. It's postmarked at the very end of 1909. 

From my home to yours, sending warm "New Year Wishes" on this first day of the new year.

And if you're stateside, don't forget to watch the new season of Finding Your Roots on PBS starting the first week of 2022. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

Penny Postal Greeting New Year's

When my husband's uncle Wallis Wood was just 5 years old, he received this fanciful New Year's postcard from his Wood relatives at the end of 1910.

It was very early in the air age. The two kiddies in in this air ship are having a steampunk holiday, from the looks of this colorful illustration. 

But in reality, an airship named America did set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean in October of 1910, lifting off from New Jersey to land somewhere in Europe (no fixed destination). Before experiencing difficulty and abandoning the attempt, the crew set a new record for flight time (71.5 hours) and distance flown (1,008 miles). 

Dear readers, wishing you a brighter and better new year in 2022!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A Look Ahead to My Genealogy Projects in 2022


As 2022 approaches, I'm looking forward to making progress on a number of genealogy projects.
  • Census research: I can hardly wait until April 1st, when the 1950 US Census will be released. I'm ready to browse with names, street addresses, and enumeration districts. If the surname search function is operational, so much the better. I can sort my listing of most-wanted ancestors alphabetically by surname or numerically by ED. This Census could help me solve some vexing family-history mysteries! A true highlight of 2022.
  • Census research: On January 6, the 1921 Census for England will be released. My hubby had ancestors in London at that point, and I had paternal cousins in Manchester and London. Should be quite interesting to locate these people and learn more!
  • Bite-sized bios: I'll be writing and posting (in public) more bite-sized bios for ancestors in my family tree and my hubby's family tree. For instance, I haven't written any public bios for aunts/uncles other than my Auntie Dorothy, who was a WAC, although all of these ancestors are mentioned in private family-history booklets sent to relatives. Also I'll be working on bios for great aunts and great uncles, and for ancestors who served in the military.
  • Photo management: It's time (past time, really) for reorganizing old family photos. I bought one archival photo album as an experiment started scanning photos before slotting them into the album. In 2022, I plan to test a different type of album and increase momentum. Regardless of the albums I use, captioning is key!
  • Research priority: Other than searching newly-released Census records, my top research priority is to follow up on clues uncovered by the incredible WikiTree team a few weeks ago. There are so many intriguing possibilities for improving my family tree and adding more ancestors/bios/sources on WikiTree.
  • DNA matches: Who knows what the future holds here? Maybe 2022 will be the year I make a big breakthrough! I'm fishing in many ponds and keeping my fingers crossed.
  • Presentations: It is an honor to be presenting virtual programs to audiences near and far. My talk about the 1950 US Census is currently the most popular. Until full indexing is complete, I'll be explaining the enumeration quirks and demonstrating the three-step process for finding ancestors through efficient, informed browsing. 
  • Genealogy education: So many virtual learning opportunities are ahead in 2022. I'm thankful that once again, RootsTech will be all-virtual and worldwide, offering hundreds of talks on genealogy topics for all levels and all interests. I'll miss seeing my genie friends in person, but the next-best thing is having access to world-class talks without leaving home. At least to start the year, all of the genealogy groups to which I belong are hosting speakers virtually--especially convenient in the winter, when weather is iffy. 
Dear readers, I wish you a new year filled with successful genealogy research, interesting learning opportunities, and great progress on your family history projects!

- "Future" is the final prompt for Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge of 2021. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A Look Back at My Genealogy Projects in 2021

Staying close to home in 2021, as I did in 2020, it was a year chock-full of genealogy projects. 

Although I've been doing some research, I was particularly focused on documenting family history for descendants and to share more widely online. Genealogy is never complete...but anything I share is more than the family (and future researchers) had before. Why wait? I'm sharing now.

Also, I blogged, wrote, and gave talks about preserving family history, prepping for the 1950 US Census, perpetuating family history, and many other topics.


  • I published a new edition of my best-selling book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, receiving highly favorable reviews from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Family Tree Magazine (UK), as well as from genealogy societies and genealogy bloggers.
  • It was a real honor to be a featured guest during the WikiTree Challenge. The remarkable WikiTree super-sleuths smashed several brick walls (Burk, Farkas, and Kunstler) and provided concrete clues to help me continue the research!  
  • I made nearly two dozen live webinar presentations to US genealogy societies from coast to coast, plus one talk in person. In addition, I recorded talks for the New England Regional Genealogical Conference, THE Genealogy Show UK (summer and winter), and the Virtual Genealogy Association Conference. Wonderful audiences! 
  • It was fun being a #GenChat guest expert, sparking discussion about finding ancestors when the 1950 US Census is released in April. Also I participated in lots of #GenChat and #AncestryHour chats, occasionally chiming in on #ANZAncestryTime chats.
  • I wrote an article, "Finding Heirs for Your Family History," published in the December, 2021 issue of Internet Genealogy magazine.
  • I wrote an article, "Free and Almost Free Genealogy," published in the winter 2021 issue of Avotaynu, the International Review of Jewish Genealogy.
  • I found new homes (museums, libraries, historical societies) for artifacts such as theater programs collected by my late father-in-law from the 1920s to the 1980s. Family is so happy about donating these items. More to go!
  • Consulting with relatives, I wrote and posted (on Find a Grave, Family Search, MyHeritage, WikiTree, and elsewhere) dozens of bite-sized ancestor bios from my tree and hubby's tree. Good progress, with more in the works.
  • My late father-in-law left hundreds of photos and negatives, which I'm slowly scanning, captioning, and sharing with relatives. To be continued in 2022, along with scanning my childhood photos. Scanning is easy, captioning is key.
  • I helped my hubby record several family-history videos and prepare a number of written reminiscences, complete with photos. Lesson learned: For our family audience, videos are watched once, but printed materials live on.
  • I expanded my virtual cemeteries on Find a Grave to share with relatives and keep burial places from being forgotten in the future. More to go!
  • I expanded my knowledge base by watching talks all year, not just those fantastic RootsTech talks but also programs hosted by national, regional, and local genealogical societies. In my bunny slippers and headset! (PS: I'm excited to be a RootsTech Influencer--aka Ambassador--for 2022.)
My next post will be a look ahead to 2022, when I will celebrate 14 years of genealogy blogging.