Five Fun Facts About Old Census Records
So, I’m an amateur genealogist. I have family from French Canada and New England, mostly. I thought I’d do something different this week and share a bit about that.
Here are Five Fun Facts About Old Census Records:
Fun Fact Number One:
Some census-takers wrote really sloppily. I mean, come on, people! This is a record! This has resulted in many names being transcribed incorrectly by lovely helpful people who don’t know any better. Thus, Jeremiah becomes Jemimah, and your uncle becomes your aunt. Or whatever.
Fun Fact Number Two:
Census-takers didn’t necessarily speak the language in the area they were surveying. So French names were often Anglicized or just plain misheard. Sometimes, though, they were just plain odd names. I have a French-Canadian ancestor named Sifroid. This means ‘so cold.’ His dad was named Sylvain. This means forest. Did I mention they lived in Canada?
Fun Fact Number Three:
Reading a census record in French is a good way to learn a little bit of French. You see the same words repeated over and over, and you start to know what to look for. The cognates are a piece of cake. Cultivateur? That’s farmer. Clothier? Uhh, clother? Chef? Of COURSE that’s chef.
*insert sound of buzzer*
Nope. After months of being fooled by this false cognate, I learned from my dad that chef, when it’s in the ‘member of household’ column, means head. Head of household. Sadly, my ancestor was not a chef. (But his name was Felix and he was born on Prince Edward Island.)
Fun Fact Number Four:
There are a lot of cool names out there (ok, I admit, I enjoy the names part almost more than the ancestry part). It’s fun to go back about a hundred years and see all the names that are now in fashion again (Ruby, Emma, Abigail). Then there are the crazy Puritan names like Remembrance, Maverick, and Snow. And the kinda intense names like Hepsibeth, Shearjashub, and Peleg. Names. Yum.
Fun Fact Number Five:
Many sites offer free information, mostly transcribed civil records that have become public after a person’s death. Go to familysearch.org and see if you can find an ancestor. There are many sites like this, some sharing actual scans of records. I suggest searching for an ancestor born before 1930 whose entire name and spouse’s name you know.
Question: Can you name one or more of your great-grandparents? (You don’t have to name them here.) Is anyone in your family interested in family history? (Ok, that was two questions.)