San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

Preparing for the 1940 Census

 Dennis L. Maness, MLS 

 • At our January General Meeting we were privileged to have Steve Morse tell us about his census tools at his One Step website. What he has done is so good that the National Archives has a link to his site! This is probably the first place to start your preparation for the census.

 • The National Archives (NARA) has a webpage called Start Your 1940 Census Research; they list, with examples, the three most important things that you can do to prepare: 1) Make a list of all the people you want to look for in the 1940 census; 2) Collect addresses for these people for whom you plan to search; and 3) Identify the enumeration district (ED) in which each address was located. At the end they describe how to “Search the 1940 Census Enumeration District Descriptions”.

 • At the Family Search Wiki search for “1940 Census” and you will find articles such as “About the Enumeration Districts”, “Finding Rural Ancestors”, “Using City Directories to Find a Street Address”, and “Finding Your Ancestor in a Big City”.

 • Genealogy blogs are an excellent way to find out about the Census itself and how to make your preparations. Go to the Geneabloggers website and click on the “Search All Blogs” link. Search for "1940 census" and you find out what the “blogiverse” is talking about.

 • Perhaps one of the best places to look for census preparation tips is at the Family Tree Magazine site and on their blog, Genealogy Insider. The magazine site has devoted an entire section to the census, they have produced a webinar which explains Steve Morse’s One-Step site, and in their blog Diane Haddad has produced two of the funniest articles on the census preparation that I have seen: PSA: Don't Let Your 1940 Census Search Get Sidelined and Getting Ready for the 1940 Census: Nine Absolute Must-Haves which, with the permission of Family Tree Magazine, I will put here:

Getting Ready for the 1940 Census: Nine Absolute Must-Haves 
Posted by Diane

Part two in our series on getting ready for the release of the 1940 census is a guest post from census preparedness expert Ida Searcher: 

I was inspired to become a census preparedness expert 10 years ago, after seeing woefully underprepared genealogists try to use the 1930 census.
Why, so many of them were waiting in line at the library without basics like tents, Bunsen burners or crossword puzzles. And watching them scroll microfilm without Dramamine—well, it was downright painful.

You'll need different supplies for the 1940 census, as this release is entirely digital and you'll be examining the records on a computer.

Under no circumstances should you start your 1940 census research without these nine absolute

1. An atomic clock to precisely signal the 9 a.m. ET release of the 1940 census records.

2. Extra batteries for your mouse. Be sure to practice changing them fast, the way they change the tires on race cars. You don't want to lose census time on silly things like dead batteries.

3. A Netflix account for the kids. You can get 99 episodes of Sponge Bob on Netflix. That's 99 half-hours of uninterrupted census work. You can always smarten them back up later with some books or something.

4. A cardboard cutout of yourself to keep your spouse company while you’re spending quality time with your computer. This is the kind thing to do.

5. A hands-free helmet hydration system. No need to pause in your scrolling to pick up a glass of water.

6. Peanut m&ms for sustenance (peanuts = protein).

7. An alarm clock to remind you to eat the m&ms.

8. No-Doze (it's not just for college students anymore). Stock up now before your local drugstore is overrun with census-checking grannies. You don't want to have to knock over those grannies.

9. Vitamin D pills. Let's face it: You're not going to be seeing the sun anytime soon. That's okay, though. Vampires are very "in" these days. You're like a census vampire.

Um, thank you, Ida. I'm sure readers are rushing to the store right now. Next up, we offer phrases you'll want to memorize in case your boss catches you searching the 1940 census at work.

(Copyright 2012. Used with permission from Family Tree Magazine, America's No. 1 genealogy how-to magazine. Thank you Diane Haddad!) 

The Census won’t have a name index so go to and volunteer to help index it!
And remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says, “Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

In a piece written by Harold Henderson called Climbing The Spiral Staircase: Learning Genealogyfor the website Archives (formerly he lists four practical tips. Number four is “Don't stop learning. If you're scared of heights, you may want to switch metaphors right now. Genealogy learning does differ from an actual spiral staircase in one interesting way: I see no reason to think that it has a top.

The goal of this column will be to guide you to some of the steps on that staircase, ones that can be found online. We will discuss webinars, online classes, blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, wikis, and other sources that can help you build your tree and expand it into a family history. I have used many of these sources and will be learning others right along with you.

Since I’ve quoted from the Archives site let’s start with what they have to offer us. Archives is a subscription site much like, Fold3, and Find My Past but what I’m interested in is the free content that is on this site. At the top of the Archives opening page click on the “Learn From Experts” tab. Their goal here is stated as “At, we feature guest experts every week. Each of our experts offers new tips and lessons on topics that help you learn how to trace your family history.”

On the first page of this section you will find highlights of recent articles. The subjects range from the area-specific (“Finding Your Massachusetts Ancestors: Genealogy Research From The 17th to 21st Centuries” by Diane Rapaport) through database research (“How To Prepare For The 1940 U.S. Census” by Thomas MacEntee) to thoughtful essays (“Online Family Trees: Blight or Blessing?” by Claudia Breland).

On the right hand side of the page are links to articles by subject including Ancient & Medieval Genealogy, Find Living Relatives, International Records, Military Records, Research Strategies, Tracing Ethnicity, U.S. Census, and Vital Records. At the bottom of the list is a link to “View All Articles”, which, as of this writing, numbered 61!

And remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s representative Geoff Rasmussen says at the end of his live Webinars, “Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Meeting
Date: Saturday, March 17 | 10:30 am
Topic: Los Shenanigans
Speaker: Linda Lorda

On St. Patrick’s Day come hear how Linda Lorda has uncovered the shenanigans* of early Californians...

Linda Lorda is a Professional Genealogist with a 25-year research background in Early Hispanic California, particularly the Carrillo Family, including Fitch, Pacheco, Vallejo, and Mallagh descendants.

Linda specializes in the use of genealogy to find living persons.
*Shenanigan: trickery, underhand action, intrigue. First used in Gold Rush California. Possible origins: Irish, sionnachuighm, meaning “I play tricks”, or Spanish, chanada, meaning “trick or deceit”.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Welcome to the San Mateo County Genealogy Blog - produced by the San Mateo County Genealogy Society.  Watch here for society events, project updates, meeting notes and other items of interest to genealogists.