Saturday, April 28, 2012

Serendipity Strikes Again!

Despite the many years of genealogy research under my belt, it did not take long before I quickly dubbed serendipity as my full partner in crime. There are just too many instances of important discoveries that seem to randomly fall into our laps from the oddest places - too many to ignore the Big 'S' and its importance. Years ago, I purchased a small, rectangular gold frame at an estate auction that seemingly housed a calendar print glued to a piece of cardboard. I was happy with the purchase, since all I wanted was the beautiful frame, but once I got it home, I discovered a gorgeous panoramic photograph of an unnamed church congregation from roughly the 1930s or 40s hidden behind the front print.
I really only had a few clues to go on when trying to figure out which church this group was sitting in front of: purchased in central Kentucky, "Lafayette Studios, Lexington Kentucky" embossed in the lower right corner, and a building cornerstone that read "Christian Church, 1894". Based on the size of the congregation, the location of Lafayette Studios and even the type of house sitting next to it, I arrogantly assumed this was a Lexington Christian Church. While I never conducted full scale research on the photo, it was always something I looked for when driving downtown. When leaving work, I would sometimes just take some extra side roads to view a different brick church that might fit the architectural mold. Over the years, it was definitely a church whose outer details were very committed to my memory.
Earlier this week, I was conducting some research for a patron, and was only having marginal success finding their family. Since church records and histories can have additional snippets of local history, I took a chance and picked up this book about the First Disciples-Christian Church in Georgetown Kentucky by Ann Bevins, 1981. I looked through the book and wasn't really having any luck, but when I went to put it back, it fell a bit out of my hands and onto the book shelf with the back cover flipping open as it came to rest. Since I hadn't looked at my panoramic shot in a year or two, I was having what I thought was an extreme deja vu moment - but apparently, my brain was pulling out this memory, and I was suddenly reminded about the photo and missing church. This is what met my eyes:
In an instant the mystery was completely solved. I had not only found my group and building in question, but also a full history of the congregation. Since I have lived in Georgetown for the past 10 years, the mere fact that this Church was in my town completely shocked me.....but then I read enough to realize that this beautiful building, built in 1894 and photographed here in 1939, had tragically burnt in 1947. The current structure was built in 1955, and did not resemble the 19th century brick in any way. So, Serendipity solves another mystery. I did not happen to have family members in Scott County in the 1930s, so for those of you who might be wondering about the identity of the peeps featured, here is a partial list as printed in the back of the book. I will confess that the 1939 image made me think of the 1940 census.....matching a name to a face in 1940 would be quite a treat! I think I'll wait until the index is finished to tackle that one!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time to Party Like it's 1940!!

Ok, so that doesn't have the same ring to it as 1999, but still, I think I've partied harder for the 1940 Census than I ever did to ring in the new millennium! (Geek confession #57) For those of us who are die-hard Kentucky fans, that was certainly true as the Census was released in the morning, followed by the Wildcats winning the championship that night! Despite us being almost three weeks into the Census fun, I don't see the partying slowing down very much! Just last Saturday we had a wonderful celebration at the Kentucky Historical Society. For the KGS/KHS 2nd Saturday Program we explored the Census in all of its glory: Introduction, Instruction & Celebration. The party atmosphere was heightened as we had over 120 folks pre-register for the event - one of the largest crowds we've had in a while!

Much of our content focused on how to view and browse the images across the various web sites, followed by how to find your needed Enumeration Districts. In the afternoon, we covered a few case studies to demonstrate how to put the learned morning information to use. We wrapped things up with a small session on indexing. Folks had some really good questions and we had a moment of trivia speed bump: When were Enumeration District numbers first used? The answer from the audience was 1880 - Thanks Jim! Several people had already dove headlong into the Census browsing prior to the event, but they were encountering enough of a continued challenge to really understand the importance of an index! As of right now, Kentucky has 14 official Societies or Groups that are administrating indexing efforts in their areas. I am an administrator for the KHS group. If you would like to join a group for your state, just visit and look at the societies map. Hovering over the states will pop up a window listing the groups and their web information to get hooked up.

So, what did we do once we were buzzed on all that Census info? We loaded up on some sugary sweet cake that had the 1940 Census Community Project logo in the center. No one seemed to mind that the place looked a bit like the 4th of July in April....we all had a great time....and since Kentucky had just been released for indexing the day before, people were ready to get out there and start some turbo indexing! So far, our little KHS group of about 50 people is averaging 15,000 names per week! Before I head out for some more indexing (which btw, has made me a terrible blogger these days), I would like to give a shout out to They were kind enough to send us some lovely free memberships for door prizes!
Bye for now, and happy indexing!

Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 Census - News From the Trenches

As we approach the noon hour on this historic morning of the official 1940 Census release by the National Archives, I wanted to document my experiences so far.....and share the one image I was able to download.

The morning began with anticipation tweets, a half hour press conference, and then tweets of frustration as very few people were able to download anything. It was clear the servers were just not up to the momentous task, and we all continue to wait for bigger servers, or at least for the rush to slow down for improved search results.

Having your enumeration numbers ready was a clear headstart since all portions of the NARA site were painfully slow. I had thought of another enumeration district I could look up while waiting, but even the maps and descriptions would not load for me.

By using the enumeration district you can search much quicker, and as you can see from the image below, they have the option of searching by either 1930 or 1940 ED. This can be very helpful if you have not done your homework ahead of time. has opened up their 1940 related documents until April 10th, which includes the 1930 Census. Since their servers are running much faster, just pop over there to get your 1930 ED while you wait!
Once I put in the search for my 1940 ED, I was taken to a results page that listed Map images, Description Images and Census Schedules. The Census Schedule is the NEW Census image which is the one we have been waiting for!
But alas, clicking on that link this morning is where people have been shut out almost completely. It times out, shows a broken link or an error. Hovering your mouse over the spinning wheel that appears to be loading something will give you a menu of "Quick View, View Full Screen or Download". As many have reported, going to full screen and then choosing "Download" seems to yield the best results. I opted for "Quick View" then "Full Screen" while in the Quick View, and then chose "Download" the one page only. After many tries at various combinations, I finally had my first real image at about 11:30AM. The winner for today was the first page of the ED 96-6 from Pendleton County Kentucky!
The surnames on this page are: Kidwell, Brooks, Record, Pribble, Shoemaker, Woodyard, Gilham, VanLandingham, Jett, McClanahan, Parr, Norris, Flaugher, Moore and Miller. Unfortunately, there are 18 pages for the 96-6 ED alone, so I will be taking a break from the action before I try for more pages. I had tried right away after this success, but was encountering the same problems as earlier - and a girl can only take so much spinning!

Some other news regarding access as of noon April 2nd: has won the access race so far. They received the images at 12:01AM and have been loading images for browsing since then. As of noon today, they had 11 states/territories available for browsing - and I must say, the images loaded very fast. I didn't even need an ED as there were drop-downs to let me choose state, county, community which then took me to an ED area for browsing. Very fast, and as they add more states, I will be using them for browsing unless the NARA system improves considerably. I think Ancestry is the dark horse today as most people will be flooding NARA and not bothering with Ancestry access - which means their less traffic will make for smoother sailing.
FamilySearch only has one state up for browsing as of noon: Delaware. Nice page for searching and progress, plus the images loaded very fast.....but with only one state by noon, Ancestry is winning!
MyHeritage has a lovely 1940 Census page exploring the culture and times, and announces that they will have content from the 1940 Census that no one else will: "See new unpublished records first - We'll be uploading data for US States that aren't yet available anywhere else, so you'll be the first to explore them!" However, as of noon, they have not posted any images from the 1940 Census.
Well that's it for now....I'm taking a break. Hopefully others will too and as the intensity slows down, so will the traffic, and things might get a chance to stabilize. This not a failure folks but a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone - from the server side to the user side! Can't wait for 2022 when the 1950 Census comes out! We will all have a good laugh about our 2012 access struggles :-)


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