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Genealogy Tip of the Week

Census Tips: 1810 Census

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County boundaries of North Carolina during the 1810 census

The third federal census occurred in 1810 with the census day as August 6, 1810. Initially, enumerators were given nine months to complete the census, but that was extended by one month. Categories for ages are exactly the same as the 1800 census. As with earlier censuses, there was no printed forms for enumerators to use.

For North Carolina, the 1810 census is fully intact for all but four counties: Chowan, Greene, New Hanover, and Wake. For those four counties, tax lists within a few years of 1810 would be a good substitute. Chowan County has a 1810 tax list and Wake County has an 1809 tax list. For Greene County and New Hanover County, the tax lists are 1816 and 1815 respectively. It’s not as good of a substitute for the other two counties, but it is better than waiting a full ten years until the next census. Those tax records are located in the State Archives of North Carolina.


How to find the parents of Orphans, Part 1

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One thing genealogists have in common in the search for parents. If your ancestors were orphans, the search may be a bit easier. Once a month for the next few months, I will give you tips on how to find out who the parents were if your ancestors were orphans. (more…)

Tip of the week: deciphering old handwriting

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Understanding handwriting is an important aspect of researching original records. It’s not easy to do as handwriting practices change over the years and centuries.

Sometimes, we stumble upon a hard to read document – hard to read because of handwriting, but other factors may contribute to its being hard to read, such as faded writing, holes in the paper created by acid, or random marks. Early census records are good examples. Often, the text is faded, or the microfilm copy may have darkened areas or scratches as well as seemingly random marks.

My tip for you is to look at the whole document if written by the same person (or the section of the census enumerated by the same person). I like to find “key” words – these are words that I can very easily tell what they are. For example: John, James, Mary, Anne (or variations), Valentine, Zachariah (easy to understand names with uncommon letters are good!). I use those “key” words as reference points. If I get stuck on a name or a word, I look letter by letter and compare to my “key” words.

Recently I saw a name in the census that was hard to read. It looks like Edward…but not exactly. First, I compared the w to others on the same page. I realized it was actually an m. It started to make sense because the “a” did look like a “u” and the “r” in comparison with others was actually an “n,” making the name change from Edward to Edmund.

There are quite a few resources here at the GHL that can help you decipher old handwriting. Feel free to come visit us and look at these resources! If you need assistance with look ups of sources in our library, check out our guidelines for requesting help.


To reshelve books or not to reshelve…that is the question

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image of the reference desk in Genealogical Services

Have you ever wondered why there are so many signs in libraries? If you have visited Genealogical Services, you’ve probably noticed all the signs around the room. Signs to inform patrons of the cost of copies, signs about computer use, signs to inform patrons of what is on the shelves, and finally, signs about placing books that have been used on the carts at the end of aisles. Why do we not want patrons reshelving books after using them? It may not be what you think.

Each book has a barcode on it that is unique to that book (not including periodicals, which have 1 barcode for the whole series). The barcode is connected to a database that gives information on the book. We ask that patrons not reshelve books so that we can scan them for statistics. This tells us a couple of things. First, it tells us how many of our materials are being used. That is very important to know. It shows those who are interested in numbers that our collection is being used. It also tells us what titles are being used. This can help us in purchasing new books.  (more…)

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