A few weeks ago, my husband and I traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana for the National Black Genealogy Summit.  It was a very interesting trip. We flew into Indianapolis and drove the two hours to Fort Wayne.  Not a bad drive and we even stopped and ate at a White Castle.  We have been told by northerners that White Castle is better than Krystal, so of course as southerners who know that we have the best of everything (smile), we had to try it.  And the verdict….I think Krystal is better. Hubby like’s the meat better at White Castle.  

When we arrived at the hotel (after doing some sightseeing), we got checked in and headed back out again.  By the end of the trip, we got to know the area pretty well and had fun doing it. 

Now on to the Summit.  We registered for the Pre-Summit held at the Allen County Public Library.  We were ohhing and ahhing as we walked through the library. The two story building ran the length of the block, complete with a parking garage and more parking across the street. Situated in downtown Fort Wayne, the library was right across the street from the Grand Wayne Center, the locale for the Summit events.  The Pre-Summit offered many interesting topics taught by members of the African American Genealogy Society of Fort Wayne, Allen County Public Library staff, and a few others. The theme of the Pre-Summit was Focusing on Family Health History, Foundations of Genealogical Research, a Librarians Track, and Information Sharing.  The sessions ranged from Getting Started with Tracing Your Family History to Finding Your Ancestors Through Church Historiography. 

The National Black Genealogy Summit, which lasted two days, offered a full list of events taught by some big names in the genealogy stratosphere including Tony Burroughs. In between or instead of some sessions (which was the case for me on a couple of occasions), you can go to the library to do your research.  The Center also offered extended hours for those who needed more time.  The ACPL Genealogy Center houses one of the premier genealogy collections in the nation.  The department is HUGE!!  Even after three days, I still didn’t get to see everything. Though when you are doing research, you tend to get tunnel vision.  I would recommend for anyone who lives or visits the area and are doing genealogy research, to head to the library.  You will not be disappointed.

The sessions offered provided us with a boat load of tips on how to do many topics, including getting started; using newspapers to find information on your ancestors , creating maps of your family’s land or the slaveholders land, and how to find your unfindables.  The presenters ranged from local genealogy society members to the internationally known Tony Burroughs. He even joined a group of us for lunch on Saturday.

Though we received a few handouts, most of the conference were contained on the CD given to us at registration. There are quite a few tips in the handouts that I would like to share with you in future post.  Among them were tips on searching the Census in a session titled U.S. Census Techniques and Strategies for finding Elusive Ancestors presented by Sandra Joseph.  Here’s the list of tips she shared to help find someone you know should be in a particular census: 

Techniques and Strategies

                        1. Select a specific census to search

                        2. Begin a search with minimal information

                        3. Search for exact matches

                        4. Search by surname and location

                        5. Search by given name and location

                        6. Try a Soundex search

                        7. Don’t rely solely on the Soundex

                        8. Use wildcards

                        9. Become familiar with nicknames

                        10. Search for middle names

                        11. Search for initials

                        12. Search for other family members

                        13. Search for neighbors

                        14. Leave out the name entirely

                        15. Search multiple online census databases

                        16. Search published indexes

                        17. Browse page by page

                        18. Keep a research log

Another suggestion made by the presenter was to search more than one online census resource, i.e. Ancestry, Heritage Quest, and Family Search.  The indexing of the products are different which may yield different results.  I know this is true between Ancestry and Heritage.  I was able to find people in Ancestry but not in Heritage and vice versa. So now that I know this, I will be searching all three for my ancestors to make sure that I leave no stone unturned or in this case, no census record unsearched!

During her discussion, Ms. Joseph also mentioned reasons why you may not be able to find your people in the census:

Possible Reasons Why Ancestors Can Not Be Found in the Census

                         Searching for the wrong name

                         Peron’s name is misspelled

                         Person or family is residing in a different locality than expected

                         Person gave enumerators wrong information

                         Informant, possibly a child or neighbor, was misinformed

                         An indexer made a transcription error

                         Index is not an every name index

                         Census record is illegible (smudges, ink blots, tears, etc.)

                         Online census database is incomplete

                         Missing census schedules

I knew about the misspellings and people not being where you think they are, but I was surprised to learn about the missing census schedules.  So there’s a chance that you may not find your people in the census. But don’t fret…the census is not the only way to track your ancestors down.  You just have to look at other sources.  More on that later. 

Now that you have some tips on how to find your elusive ancestors, I hope you will have better luck with searching the census.

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