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A Tender Reminder

Last week was Spring Break.  We took our children to St. George for a few days.  We visited Zion National Park and had a lovely little vacation.  As we traveled, we passed signs for Kanarraville, Utah on the way there and on the way back.  Seeing those signs reminded me of this video.  So today I pulled it up and watched it once again.  And once again I was teary as I considered the story and the message.

What does this have to do with genealogy?

Well, I believe we all have moments during our lifetime when we are stretched by trials and troubles.  Moments when we either choose to rely on our faith and hope or become distant from God and often bitter.  Listening to this story of a challenging moment for a young husband and father and the message that same man would share with himself after 30 years of life, is a lovely reminder to me that we all have a story or two like this.  A story of struggle, an experience that helped to shape us, a moment when our faith in whatever we believe was tested in some way.  And most of the time, we let those moments make us stronger, better, and ultimately happier.  We overcome.  We cling to faith.  We have hope.  That is one of the miracles of the human spirit.  We feel a connection to heaven that guides us to be a better version of ourselves.

What do you believe, hope and have faith in?  How has your faith helped you to overcome trials?  If you could talk to a younger you facing a difficult challenge, what message would you share with yourself?

Would you say something like this?

“In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: “Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”  Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. Of that I personally attest. I thank my Father in Heaven for His goodness past, present, and future.”
-Jeffrey R. Holland

What message would you leave for your posterity?  What is your message of hope?

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From the Beginning: Understanding the US Federal Census, 1940

gg, US Federal Census - 1940

What is the 1940 US Census?

It’s an official count of the population of the United States as of 1 April 1940.  The census forms also asked demographic questions about individuals.  The census date is April 1st.  This means that census takers began knocking on doors on or around April 1st and that the questions asked were to be answered based on what was happening on April 1st.

Where can I access the 1940 US Census?

To access the 1940 Census for free, visit FamilySearch or click this link.

What information can I find on the 1940 US Census?

This census has some great questions that will help you get to know your family members a little bit better.  You can view a blank form here.  Having a printed blank form can be handy as you are working with census records.  You can check the column headings on the blank form as you read along the responses on your computer.  This saves you the headache of constantly scrolling up to read the heading and then back down to read the answer.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s look at a 1940 Census Page and talk about some specifics.  First, the layout:

gg, 1940 census overview

In the upper left you see the City, County, & State.  In the upper right you see the Enumeration Information which includes the date of enumeration, enumeration district, and the name of the Enumerator.  Below the heading you find the Demographic Questions which we will look at in a minute.  Along the left side you see the street name is written sideways up that column.  You will also notice that the Enumerator would draw a dark line between different streets.  If you find a census record and don’t see a street name, check the page before to see if the street name was recorded there.  Every page of the 1940 Census has two lines that were chosen for supplementary questions.  Those two individuals answered additional questions found at the bottom of the page.  On the lower left you see a small box the Enumerator can check if the household is continued on the next page.  At the very bottom is a guide with symbols and explanatory notes.  These are easier to read on the blank form.

Now that you have a feel for the layout let’s look at a specific household.

gg, 1940 Census, Maffit household, 1

I let Photoshop help me with some magic and I combined a household with the headings from the blank form.  The columns don’t line up perfectly but most of them are pretty close.  Let’s look at Seth who is the head of household.  I’ll go through each entry on his line starting on the left.

  • The street name is Fifteenth Avenue North.  You have to look at the whole page to read this item.
  • The house number is 603A.
  • The next line tells you that the Maffit home was the 117th house this enumerator visited.
  • Next we learn that Seth rents his home.
  • The monthly rent is $14.
  • The Maffits do not live on a farm.
  • The next line tells us Seth’s name.  He is listed as Maffit, Seth.  Notice the x inside of the circle.  This cool little symbol tells us that Seth is the person who gave the information to the Enumerator.  1940 is the only census with this helpful fact.  Why does this matter?  Well, if 14 year old Seth had given the answers we might not trust them as much as if 64 year old Seth had given the answers.
  • The next column lists Seth as the ‘head’.  This means that he is the head of household.  All other relationships listed in this column relate to the head of household.  Emma is listed as ‘wife’ meaning she is the wife of the head of household.  Everard is listed as ‘son’ meaning he is the son of the head of household.
  • Next is a code column.
  • Seth is listed as ‘M’, meaning he is male.
  • Seth is listed as ‘W’, meaning he is white.
  • The next column lists age at last birthday.  Seth was 64 at the time of the census.  When you use an age to calculate a birth year remember to give yourself wiggle room depending upon when their birthday was and if they remembered their age correctly.  There were a few years in my mid-twenties when I could not for the life of me remember how old I was, I had to do the math every time.  People make mistakes, be okay with that possibility.  Then you have people who intentionally give the wrong age.  Often women will mysteriously age fewer than ten years from one census to the next.  Birth and death records will help you get a more accurate birth year but the census can be a great guide.
  • Next, Seth is listed as ‘M’ for married.
  • The next column asks if the person has ‘Attended school or college at anytime since March 1, 1940?’  Seth answered no.
  • Seth lists his highest grade of school completed as ’8′ for eighth grade.
  • The next column is a code column.
  • Seth lists his birthplace as ‘Illinois’.
  • Another code column.
  • The next column is left blank.  It asks ‘Citizenship of the Foreign Born’.  If Seth had been born outside of the US this column would tell me his status – Na (naturalized), Pa (having first papers), Al (alien), or Am Cit (American citizen born abroad).
  • Seth lists his residence on 1 April 1935 as ‘same place’.  This means that five years earlier he lived in the same town.  If it had read ‘same house’, that would mean that he lived in the exact same house five years earlier.  If he had not lived in the same house or town it would list the city, county, and state he lived in five years before.
  • Seth was not living on a farm five years before.
  • And we finish this chunk of the census off with another code.

You can see that Seth has a wife and three children living with him.  I won’t go through each of their answers but feel free to read through them.  Now let’s check out the other half of the demographic questions.  The top line is Seth again.

gg, 1940 Census, Maffit household, 2

The columns don’t line up well, sorry.  There are a lot of employment questions on this census.  The depression was coming to an end, the government was trying to learn as many details about employment as they could.  Let’s check out Seth’s employment info.

  • Was this person at work for pay or profit in private or nonemergency Govt. work during week of March 24-30? (Y or N) – This column has a dash, I’m not sure why the dash instead of a no.
  • If not, was he at work on, or assigned to, public EMERGENCY WORK (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during week of March 24-3-? (Y or N) – Seth marked this column yes.  As a side note, if your family member marked this column yes, there may be more records about them in the National Archives.  I haven’t requested these records yet for Seth and don’t know much about them – it’s on my list to learn!
  • Was this person SEEKING WORK? (Y or N) – again we get a puzzling dash.
  • If not seeking work, did he HAVE A JOB, business, etc.? (Y or N) – another dash.
  • Indicate whether engaged in home housework (H), in school (S), unable to work (U), or other (Ot) – Seth’s column is blank.
  • Next is a code column.
  • Number of hours worked during week of March 24-30, 1940 – Seth claimed 0 hours worked.
  • Duration of unemployment up to March 30, 1940 – in weeks – Seth was unemployed for 8 weeks.
  • Occupation & Industry – Seth listed his occupation as a laborer on WPA Road.
  • Class of Worker – Seth’s column is blank.
  • Another code column comes next.
  • Number of weeks worked in 1939 (Equivalent full-time weeks) – Seth’s column is blank.
  • Amount of money, wages or salary received (including commissions) – Seth earned $500 during the 12 months in 1939.
  • Did this person receive income of $50 or more from sources other than money wages or salary (Y or N) – Seth said that he did not.
  • The last column asks number of Farm Schedule – Seth does not live on a farm in 1940 so his column is blank.

You will notice that Seth’s wife Emma happens to be on a line that asks Supplementary Questions.  Let’s look at those.

gg, 1940 Census, Emma's supp qs

The supplementary questions are a little goldmine.  Emma’s answers are interesting.

  • The first column asks her name – she lists ‘Maffit, Emma’.
  • The second and third columns ask her father & mothers birth places – Emma’s father was born in France and her mother in Canada.
  • Then we get another code.
  • Emma’s native language is English.  This is interesting to me because her father is French and her mother is French Canadian.
  • Another code.
  • The next four columns ask veteran questions which Emma leaves blank.
  • The next three columns ask Social Security questions which again, Emma leaves blank.

gg, 1940 Cenus, Emma's supp qs 2

And here is the second half of Emma’s supplementary questions.

  • The first four columns of this half ask about usual occupation – Emma’s entries are blank.
  • The next three questions are for women who are or have been married.  From these questions we learn that Emma has been married once, she was married at the age of 17 and has had 9 children born alive.  Now the 9 children thing is a problem.  Emma had 9 children who lived into adulthood but she had 3, possibly 4 other children who did not.  It’s too bad the answer to this question isn’t accurate.  If it had been it would help me clear up the 3, possibly 4 issue.  This is another example of why it is helpful to know who gave the information to the Enumerator.  Her husband answered the questions.  I have a feeling if Emma had been the one to answer the door this entry would have been different.
  • The following columns are all code columns.


What are the best features of the 1940 Census?

Well, in my humble opinion, the best features are:

  • Street name and house number listed.
  • We know who gave the information to the Enumerator.
  • Education level is listed.
  • Residence 5 years earlier is listed.
  • The employment questions are VERY detailed.
  • The supplementary questions are awesome.


What tips make using the 1940 Census super great?

  • Print a blank census form.
  • Read every single column for each member of the household.
  • Check the whole page for extended family members who may be living nearby.
  • FAQ found at the National Archives has some helpful information.
  • If you can’t find someone, try searching by location instead of by name.  This article may be helpful for you.


Many people living in the US have an ancestor that they knew personally who is listed on the 1940 Federal Census.  Try to find someone you know on the 1940 census.  See what new information you can learn about their life and family.


And that is the 1940 US Federal Census!



gg, OHIO

Once upon a time when I was a Kindergarten teacher, I went to an in-service class about vocabulary instruction.  The class was pretty great but the thing that has really stayed with me has nothing to do with vocabulary instruction and everything to do with efficiency.

While sharing some interesting concept, the teacher went on a tangent and asked us if we had heard the acronym O.H.I.O.  When it was clear from our blank stares that we had not, she went on to say, “OHIO – Only Handle It Once!”

She explained the idea that once an item comes into your hand, deal with it right then.  No piles of papers waiting to be filed, read, or filled out.  Only Handle It Once.

While this mantra can’t be perfectly applied to genealogy research, I try to apply it as often as possible.

For example, when I want to use a photo for something I:

  • Edit it to clean it up.
  • Save it with a descriptive file name.
  • Upload it to my ancestry tree.  Add a detailed description including date, place, people and any story related to the photo.
  • Upload it to the Memories section on FamilySearch.  Tag people, add a detailed description including, date, place and story.
  • Add it to my family history photo blog.
  • Put it on my external hard drive.

If I get interrupted {I do have a 2 year old after all} before I can put the photo in all of those places, I leave it on my computer desktop until I am done.  Following this set of steps, I know the photo is accessible to my family members and preserved in a digital format in multiple places.

I use a similar process when handling digital documents.  If I take the time to deal with a document, I want it preserved and easily accessible in both of my online trees.  I also want a back up copy on my external hard drive.  It keeps everything easy to find.

While I am actively researching, OHIO doesn’t apply.  But I know that when I process the documents later I will want to use the OHIO method so I keep that in mind.  It slightly alters my note taking and saving procedures during the research process.

OHIO comes to mind in other aspects of my life as well.  It’s something that pops into my head often.  I’m not perfect at it – not even close – but it has helped me to be more efficient.  Hopefully it will help you too!

OHIO – Only Handle It Once!


Ancestor Story – George Vickers Young, a 98 year old ex-wife, and my shyness – 52 Ancestors

Young and CostellosCostello & Young Family, left to right:  John Costello, Mary Brown Young Costello, Andrew Brown Young, Catherine Brown Young, James Young, Alexander Brown Douglas Young, George Vickers Young.  Children in front, left to right: Virginia Costello, Dan Costello, & Vince Costello.

George Vickers Young is my great grand uncle.  He is the younger brother of my great grandmother Mary Costello.  When Mary was in a nursing home at the end of her life she would often lament to visitors that she wished she knew whatever happened to her brother George.

Well Grandma Mary, do I have a story for you.

Let’s start with the information from family records and my research.

George Vickers Young was born 11 August 1906 in Carnwath, Lanark, Scotland.  Shortly after George’s fourth birthday he set sail for America with his mother and siblings.  They left 1 October 1910 from Glasgow, Scotland and sailed on the ship Hesperian bound for Montreal, Canada.  They arrived in Quebec on 9 October 1910 and crossed the border into Vermont claiming their final destination to be Butte, Montana where they would join their husband and father James Young.  James was living at 829 Placer Street in Butte.

George and his family missed the 1910 Census in the US by 6 months.  By 1920, George is living in Spokane, Washington with his parents and two of his brothers, he is 13 and his occupation is listed as none.  The 1930 Census finds George still living in Spokane with his parents and one brother.  He is single, 23 years old, and his occupation is that of bookkeeper for a wholesale grocery.

George married Dorothy May Linstrum 7 July 1937 in Newport, Pend Oreille, Washington and again 19 June 1938 in Spokane, Washington.  I don’t know if they divorced in between or just got married again.  In 1939 they are listed in the Spokane City Directory at RD5, I’m guessing this means rural district?, his occupation is that of loader for Northwest Airlines.  In 1940 their city directory listing gives an address of N1419 B Ave, RD5.  His occupation is now Traffic Rep for Northwest Airlines.  The 1940 Census has them at the same address.  He is listed as a Clerk in the Traffic Department for Northwest Airlines.  He worked 39 weeks that year and earned $1300.  Dorothy was not working at the time of the census.  She listed her education level as 5 years of college, he completed 3 years of high school.  This is the last record I have for George and Dorothy together.

On the 13th of September 1947 George married Eileen A. Norton in Helena, Montana.

And then the trail stops.

I found more records for Dorothy.  She remarried in 1950.  I tracked down a nephew who hadn’t known about George despite knowing Aunt Dorothy really well.  He wasn’t able to help me but was very kind and found this secret marriage interesting.

I asked my family members what they could remember about George.  There are very few stories about George.  Apparently he got himself into trouble a few times and was prone to drinking too much.  His younger brother Andrew and his wife were at the lodge one evening when a page was read for Mrs. Young.  Andrew’s wife went to the telephone only to see another woman there.  It turned out to be George’s wife.  I’m not sure which wife this was but that was the only meeting between the two sisters-in-law despite living in the same city.

About two years ago I took all of this information and exhausted every resource I could think of to try and find George.  When I couldn’t find anything else I decided to research Eileen.  I traced her life forward and backward from her marriage to George.  I created an outline and even found several newspaper advertisements for a business in Helena, Montana that she owned.  I couldn’t find her death record so I checked the white pages.  She was alive!  Alive and 96 years old in a retirement home in Montana.

I was very nervous to call her.  She was listed in the white pages with her own phone number.  But.  I was worried that I might upset her.  I didn’t know how her marriage to George ended.  What if I would be bringing up painful memories.  Or what if she was suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s and couldn’t remember?  In my shyness and worry I decided to call the main office instead.  I explained who I was and that I was hoping Eileen could tell me what happened to my uncle George.  I asked the office worker to contact Eileen’s family and give them my name and phone number.  I was anxious for several days, hoping for a call.  That call never came.  Over time I mostly forgot about Eileen and would occasionally wonder if I should try calling again.

But oh the shyness and worry.  That shyness and worry kept me from calling.

Last week several things nudged me and I decided I should try again.  Eileen is still listed in the white pages and is 98 years old.  I called the office again and explained who I am and what I hoped to learn.  This time the man who answered happened to be the manager.  He told me he knows Eileen really well.  He said I could call her and ask her anything, that I wouldn’t be upsetting her and that her memory is pretty good for her age.

I decided to call Eileen directly.  I took several deep breaths, offered a prayer and dialed.  No answer.

The next day I tried again.  Same nerves, same answering machine.

A third day I called again.  No answer.  A short time later I tried again.  No answer again!  Seriously?  The amount of nervous energy I had to overcome every time was making this VERY difficult for me.  This time I left a message.  I explained who I was and what I hoped she could tell me.  I told her I would call again but she was welcome to call me as well.

Monday morning I tried again.  This time Eileen answered.  Hooray!

Our conversation began by making sure my George and her George were the same person.  Once we were sure, she shared what she could remember about George and their life together.  As you read my synopsis of our conversation you are going to think of lots of follow up questions.  I did too.  I asked them.  She couldn’t remember more detail than what I share below.  She couldn’t even remember how long they were married.  Despite what she couldn’t remember she did recall some interesting and potentially helpful items.

They met in Spokane.  She was working for the government and staying in one of those hotels for working people and she met him there.  George & Eileen married in Montana and then moved to Denver, Colorado.  They owned a business there that was a type of confectionery drug store with a soda fountain.  One day George got tired of it all and walked away.  Eileen was left with quite a mess to clear up, bills, paperwork and the like.  Once she had things settled, she left Denver and returned to Helena, Montana to her ice cream shop there.  She filed for a divorce in Helena and was single for several years before she remarried Kenneth Blackmore.  Eileen heard that George had some sort of a job in Denver after he left her and the business but she doesn’t recall what the job was.

She could remember meeting George’s brother Sandy (Alexander), the only family member she met.  She described Sandy as “fussy” and “fancy”.  She said he worked in some sort of a Mens Shop and was very particular about his clothing.  She said George was the same way.  They always had very nice clothing and were fussy about what they wore and how they looked.  They had no money but always looked nice, “they were working people, you know”.

Eileen described George as a very friendly man who enjoyed people.  She said they got along fine, real well and never fought.  She said he never complained but she got the feeling that he never felt right and because of that didn’t want to work.  She said he was very intelligent.  She believed he was a pilot.  He was in the service during WWII.  After he returned home he worked for Northwest Airlines for a time.  She said that he was part of the Masonic Lodge and was a Shriner.  He thought the world of the Masonic Lodge.  She knew he was married once before he married her but she didn’t know the name of George’s first wife or any details about their marriage.

Eileen doesn’t know whatever happened to George.  She asked me if he died.  I told her I didn’t know but since he would be 108 if he were still alive, I figure he probably did die.  She told me my math was right.  :)  She doesn’t know if he stayed in Colorado.  She never heard from him again after the divorce was final.  She said he never had children.

I am so glad I finally talked to Eileen!  I don’t know why I get so nervous.  She is a lovely woman.  She told me to call her anytime.  There was nothing to worry and stew about after all.

I hope I can take these little facts about George and turn them into something helpful.  I’m worried that he died alone, away from family and I may never find evidence of his death date and place.  If I could talk to my great grandma Mary I wouldn’t be able to tell her the end of George’s story but I have a lot more of the middle.  More than she ever knew.

One day I hope to know George’s death date and place.  But for now, I’m thankful to a 98 year old ex-wife who was willing to help me add more details to the story of George’s life.

Thank you, Eileen, for the trip down memory lane!


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