31 January 2015
A census record is a snapshot, a blink of a lens on one day, freezing in time a person or a family. Still, there is much more that we can glean from a census if we make it a habit to always analyze our person-of-interest in community context. To do otherwise, is to snip one negative from a roll of historic film and assume that the other negatives on that roll are totally unrelated subjects.
For starters, with the census records we use, we should
- extract full information on everyone in that household, even if our person is said to be just a boarder.
- extract full information on individuals in the area who bear the same surname.
- identify our person's neighbors—at least a dozen dwellings before or after.
- comb the neighborhood at large for families with similar naming patterns, migration patterns, or occupational patterns.
- note the identities of community ministers, attorneys, doctors, and other professional men who might have left records.
PHOTOCREDIT: Pixabay (http://pixabay.com/en/photo-camera-photography-old-retro-219958/: downloaded 5 December 2014), Creative Commons public domain image no. 219958; used under license.