In genealogy, even the smallest details are important. In each family that you research, if you need to find someone who was born before 1940, for example, you can use the 1940 U.S. Census to find your first ancestor in that particular family.
Some people trace just their surname line. Other people trace all of their lines. If you just trace the one line, then you will miss the great stories in all of the other lines. I promise you. You will find amazing stories all over you family tree.
You may either sign up for ancestry.com on line at home, or you may want to go to your local library and use it for free.
Start with an ancestor, who was born before 1940. Then you will usually be able to find the parents of that person, along with the rest of the family. The U. S. Census is taken every ten years. You can look up each year of the census for that family. Each census that you look up will take you back another ten years. Also, it should give you the clues to look up the next census from the ten years before. Each time you go back ten years, you will find out just a little bit more. Sometimes so much more. You will learn the parents of your ancestor that you are looking for. The U. S. Census will list state or country, where each of your relatives was born. The occupation is listed on some years. Depending on the particular census you may find out all kinds of information. You may learn when each person was born; and where their parents were born.
Sometimes you will get lucky and there will be a grandparent living with the family.
It is wise to make a copy of each U. S. Census record that you are able to find. You will need to record all of your findings on pedigree charts and family group sheets. You can find pedigree charts and family group sheets on line for free. Just pick the ones that you like and print them out.
You can start with the 1940 U. S. Census and continue on back to the 1850 U. S. Census. The 1840 U. S. Census is good for finding the head of the household. It will also give you the number of people, at curtain ages in the family. You will find no other names, other than the head of household.
The 1890 U. S. Census was almost all destroyed. You may get a usable census from that year; but that would be unusual.
If you don’t find what you need in the U. S. Census, go to the surnames and nicknames sections. Your ancestor’s names may be spelled differently than you would think. It may be spelled the way it sounds, or it may be spelled the way a census taker or enumerator thinks it should be spelled. The U. S. Census is full of errors. But it is still one of our best sources, especially to start out.
When you get all that you can from the U. S. Census on that family, then go to the internet. Look up those names that you have found from the census. Try using a male ancestor’s name, his birth state and county, if you have it, along with the year of his birth. If you get too many different people with that entry, then try quotes around just his name.
With genealogy, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. Please remember it is very rewarding and there is always an answer to the puzzle.