Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Genealogy Tips for Beginners--S.C. Perkins

DEBORAH CROMBIEThere's nothing we love more here at Jungle Red than introducing a debut author--especially an author who has won the coveted Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery award!

It's a double treat for me as S.C. Perkins (Stephanie!) is a fellow Texan! And, on a personal level, I'm fascinated because we've been talking a lot about genealogy in my family lately. My daughter recently got a subscription to Ancestry.com and we've been investigating our family, using some of the very tips Stephanie suggests. We didn't come up with anything very exciting, but what if you did? We all think it would be cool to find out we were related to someone famous but most of us wouldn't have a clue where to start looking. 

Good thing we have S.C. Perkins to tell us!

A Few Tips for the Genealogy Beginner

Looking back, it seems only natural I would make Lucy, my main character, a genealogist. I’ve heard about my own ancestry my whole life and I’ve always found it as fascinating as the amateur genealogists in my family did! Until I began to explore Lucy’s job, though, I knew next to nothing about how one traces their lineage.

Luckily, my hometown of Houston has the wonderful Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, and I went to take an introductory class. They imparted so many good tips and interesting facts, and I thought I might pass a few of them along. You know, in case you’re a newbie like me and just as lost!

To begin with, when looking for your people, start with the census.

Census records began in 1790 with the first Federal Population Census, and have been taken every ten years since. You can discover a wealth of information about your family tree from these records, and here’s some facts about them worth knowing:

·         Census records are not published for 72 years after the year they’re collected. This means the most currently available census is for the year 1940. The 1950 census won’t be available to the public until 2022.

·         The first few censuses (1790–1840) listed only families and were usually based on tax records and voter records.

·         In 1850, the census became more detailed. Individuals were listed, not just families. There were also two separate census schedules starting in 1850, one for free persons and another for slaves.

·         Beginning in 1850, specific questions were asked regarding free persons residing in a household, though the questions differed with each subsequent census. Some examples include:

Ö        the person’s occupation or trade
Ö        the year they immigrated to the U.S.
Ö        whether a member of the household had been married in the previous year
Ö        which, if any, persons over the age of 20 were unable to read and write
Ö        the value of land, home, and belongings
Ö         the names of all those in the household
Ö        if any member was “deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict”

·         The word wife was not written until 1870. Before then, an adult woman listed in the household was merely assumed to be the wife.

·         The 1890 census records burned (in 1920). Thus, there is a 20-year gap in available records, with 1880 and 1900 being available, but nothing in between.

·         Names were often spelled incorrectly, and nicknames were sometimes given to the enumerator—that is, the census taker—instead of the person’s legal name. For instance, while your three-times great-grandmother might have been christened Sarah, you might find her listed as “Sadie” or “Sally” (two common variations of Sarah) on the census.

·         Sometimes a child was listed as “infant” because there were such high child-mortality rates that a baby may not have been given a name until he or she turned a year old. And, occasionally, a child is missing from the census because the parents merely forgot to mention them!

Another good tip is about pedigree charts, also known as ancestral charts.

First, always start with yourself as chart #1and fill in all known details. Remember to use pencil, because the chances you’ll have to erase or revise is high! The next chart you do will be that of your father, who is chart #2. Your mother is chart #3, etc., like this:

Chart #            Person
1                                            You
2                                            Your father
3                                            Your mother
4                                            Your paternal grandfather
5                                            Your paternal grandmother
6                                            Your maternal grandfather
7                                            Your maternal grandmother
And so on…
You’ll notice males are even numbers, and females are odd numbers. (The exception is chart #1. If you are a man mapping out his genealogy, you are still chart #1.) This even-odd system is to help keep your ancestors straight, especially if they have names that could work for a man or a woman, such as Lee or Terry.

(Note: Ancestry.com offers free charts like the one above that you can download and print. Nice!)

Yet another good tip is to utilize military records, pension records, and, believe it or not, newspaper gossip columns.

·         In military records for World War II, there is an “Old Man’s Draft,” (aka the Old Man’s Registration) which listed men aged 45 to 64 and if they had any skills that could be put to use during the war. The information recorded on their registration cards include such information as height, complexion, race, eye color, and other skin characteristics such as moles and scars.

·         Think one of your relatives was in the clergy, but can’t find him? Look in military pension records. The names of ministers are often found simply because they married someone during a war.

·         Your female ancestor might also be found in pension records, as the soldier’s wife.

·         Gossip columns can be informative, too. For instance, marriages were not always announced formally by the family, but the nuptials may have been reported in the social columns of the day.

·         Probate records, land deeds, and court records are also rich sources when you’re looking for your relatives and their comings and goings.

And speaking of court records, don’t be surprised if you find your ancestors were always suing each other and their neighbors. It’s unlikely they were litigious because they wanted to be; suing was simply the best way to resolve disputes!

If you’re just starting out and aren’t quite ready to tackle a website such as Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, try the National Archives website at https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy . You’ll find tons of information and links to other resources that can help give you a leg up as you become your own ancestry detective.

Also, if your town has a genealogy library or your local library offers an introductory course on searching for your ancestors, take it. They’re informative, helpful, and fun!

S.C. PERKINS is a fifth-generation Texan who grew up hearing fascinating stories of her ancestry and eating lots of great Tex-Mex, both of which inspired the plot of her debut mystery novel. Murder Once Removed was the winner of the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition. She resides in Houston and, when she’s not writing or working at her day job, she’s likely outside in the sun, on the beach, or riding horses. Visit her website at scperkins.com or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook @SCPerkinsWriter.

S.C. Perkins' Murder Once Removed is the captivating first mystery in the Ancestry Detective series, in which Texas genealogist Lucy Lancaster uses her skills to solve murders in both the past and present.
Except for a good taco, genealogist Lucy Lancaster loves nothing more than tracking down her clients’ long-dead ancestors, and her job has never been so exciting as when she discovers a daguerreotype photograph and a journal proving Austin, Texas, billionaire Gus Halloran’s great-great-grandfather was murdered back in 1849. What’s more, Lucy is able to tell Gus who was responsible for his ancestor’s death.
Partly, at least. Using clues from the journal, Lucy narrows the suspects down to two nineteenth-century Texans, one of whom is the ancestor of present-day U.S. senator Daniel Applewhite. But when Gus publicly outs the senator as the descendant of a murderer—with the accidental help of Lucy herself—and her former co-worker is murdered protecting the daguerreotype, Lucy will find that shaking the branches of some family trees proves them to be more twisted and dangerous than she ever thought possible.

Website:  scperkins.com
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest:  @SCPerkinsWriter
Amazon Author Page:  amazon.com/author/scperkins
Social media links (separately listed)
Facebook:  facebook.com/scperkinswriter
Instagram:  instagram.com/scperkinswriter
Twitter:  twitter.com/scperkinswriter
Goodreads:  goodreads.com/scperkinswriter
Pinterest:  pinterest.com/scperkinswriter

DEBS: Stephanie will be stopping in to chat, AND will be giving away a copy of MURDER ONCE REMOVED and some fabulous tea to a lucky commenter!

REDS and READERS,  have you found anything interesting or unexpected in your family history?