Today most people go to the Internet when they start the search for their ancestors. Then they look in court houses, libraries, and archives. But to find some real gems about your family history, you need to go local.
I recently wandered into the Beacon Historical Society to see what they had. I wanted to be able to point visitors and callers to the Dutchess Genealogical Society to additional research material for the Beacon area.
What a treasure trove I found.
The Beacon area was known for its brick. The BHS has samples from many of the companies in the area. This one is from Brockway.
They have several old Sanborn maps. These maps were originally created to determine fire insurance liability.
Old fire insurance maps can provide lots of details about a house and neighborhood. The blue building is St. Luke's Church.
My house in 1912 - the kitchen addition is there and but it looks like the mud room wasn't. Yellow means it's wood and the "2" means it's two stories high. The old garage is not there either, but I saw it in a later edition. Now I know about when the garage was built.
In a small, portable file drawer I found some 3 x 5 index cards in alphabetical order. They were the membership cards for the Southern Dutchess Singers. I’d never heard of them but apparently they were quite well known and performed at many locales, including the Cadet Chapel at the U. S. Military Academy.
The Southern Dutchess Singers perform at the Cadet Chapel at USMA.
In addition to the singers they had Associate Members; Mr. and Mrs. T.T. Forman were among this group.
Associate members - Mr. and Mrs. T. T. Forman
The Southern Dutchess Singers were looking for Associate Members - the Formans were among those who joined.
I’ll be going back and checking out the rest of the Beacon Historical Society collection.
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New York was the most populous state in the country in 1940 with a population of 13,479,142. So far, volunteers have indexed 2% of those names.
I’ve indexed 4 “batches”. A batch is one page, or 40 lines of the census. So I’ve done 120 of those names – not much, but I intend to keep indexing. It doesn’t take too much time and I try to index first thing in the morning.
It’s pretty easy. You just follow the blue highlight, type in the information and submit.
Well, not that easy. The handwriting of the census enumerators can be bad and hard to read. The highlighting feature usually has to be adjusted and I find myself reading the instructions carefully so I get it right. Still, it’s goes quickly and I like that you can download small, easily manageable batches.
Sometimes the enumerators didn’t follow the instructions, like the enumerator who wrote Leipzig in the county column when he should have left it blank. Of course, that’s great news for a family member who didn’t have that information. Another enumerator wrote “Springfield” instead of Clark in the county column.
This is what a page looks like. Note the blue highlight and the instructions.
New York is now 2% indexed! With the largest population in the country there are a lot of records to index.
If you can, please sign up at Family Search to help index the 1940 Census.
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I found my father – he was still in New York, working as a mechanic in aviation. I know he was working for Brewster Aeronautical in Long Island City at the time. Sometime in 1940 or early 1941 he moved to Baltimore.
My grandfather provided the information to the census enumerator. He was a carpenters’ helper for the Railroad – that would be the IRT. He had been hired by them in 1932. Uncle Joe and Uncle Mike worked for a laundry. I wonder if that was the same laundry where my father had worked before he went to Stewart Technical School for aviation mechanics? Aunt Joan, or Johanna, was 13 and so there’s no information on her in the last columns because she was under 14 years old. She, Uncle Jackie, and Aunt Frances were all in school.
Of course, it took a bit of effort to find them because they were not home the day the census enumerator came to the house and went through the building. He had to come back. They are listed on page 63A. For repeat visits, the enumerator was instructed to use new sheets at the end of the listings and to start with page 61A.
My grandfather, William Colbert, in 525 West 182nd Street. He provided the information to the census enumerator.
The Colberts at 525 West 182nd Street
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Why did I think the family had already moved to 212 Clinton Street? I have to go through my notes now. I thought that’s where my parents met. The story was that my cousin Peggy Anne was only 18 months old and she entertained my father by dancing the Irish jig for him. Hmm – either Peggy Anne was older, or the Whelans were living at 63 Dean Street.
I found some new information
- Uncle Vincent was in the CCC – I have to check with my cousins to see if they have any information on that.
- My mother was a Dental Nurse and she made $572.00 in 1939.
- My grandfather made $1300.00 in 1939
- Aunt Nan only worked for 12 weeks as clerk for a magazine
- Aunt Peggy was a Bottle Filler at an ink factory and made $626.00 in 1939.
- Uncle Bill did Shellacking in a carton factory and made $624.00 in 1939.
- The rent was $35.00 a month
- The census also shows the education level for everyone. I knew my Grandmother went to the 6th level in Ireland, although I think it was more than 6 years of schooling – the U.S. Census probably couldn’t convert Irish school years to American. My Grandfather’s record shows “4”, so he probably went to the 4th level.
- The Whelan children all went to different levels: Nan – 2 years of High School, Mom and Uncle Vincent – 1 year of High School; Uncle Bill – 8th grade and Aunt Peggy – 6th grade.
- They lived at 63 Dean Street at least since 1935.
- Mom had the longest work week – 48 hours
- Aunt Nan was the only one unemployed in 1939 – for 16 weeks
Now I have to find the rest of the family – Aunt Angela was a nurse and probably living at Cumberland Hospital – I think they had a dorm of some sort. Uncle Jimmy was probably in Maspeth.
The census taker spelled the name wrong - Whalen. Who gave him the information? He was supposed to mark the informant's record with an X - he didn't.
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* sort of
As many expected, there was a huge rush to check out the 1940 Census with the result that the NARA servers were overloaded. I did not get into their site. Sometimes I got as far as “preparing image”, but no further. They’re working on it and I’m sure it will get better as more sites load the records.
I did check out the New York Public Library’s Direct Me NYC 1940 which is great. They’ve linked the 1940 telephone book for all 5 boroughs to maps and the Census Enumeration District finder. Too bad the Colberts and the Whelans didn’t have telephones. I really thought they did. The older kids were working in both families. In the Colbert household there were two girls and Aunt Frances was 16 years old. Did she ask my grandfather and her brothers for a phone? My parents were dating at the time. I do remember the story that my mother told my father to come to Brooklyn to see her – it was a test because guys from Manhattan didn’t date girls from Brooklyn. He passed the test – he came to Brooklyn and found her house. Guess he didn’t call first!
I found the address for Dr. Harold Bonsole, my mother’s boss, so now I know where she worked.
My mother worked for Dr. Bonsole in 1940.
I had better luck at Ancestry. They are loading New York State and I checked out Dutchess County. I found my house. You can see the Klankas (line 50 – 54) living there with their son, married daughter and son-in-law. The daughter, Helen Nelson lived in the house until 1995 when she died at the age of 98.
The Klankas and the Nelsons. Note no income listed for them.
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