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My name is Colleen and I find dead people.

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26 January, 2010

Don't Lose Your Census

I know, I know, your eyes are in the back of your head over this old pun. But truly, as genealogists who idolize the Census, it would be easy to get carried away when answering questions about the upcoming Census.  I received an email from my homeowners' association regarding cautions to remember when completing Census surveys.  This article was written by Susan Johnson of the Better Business Bureau, and she encouraged us to pass the word on.  Some minor formatting changes were added, solely to correct spacing issues that had come up in the paste.  No words were changed.  This is important information for all, but especially for the elderly who may lack adequate social supports; they often so excited to have contact with the "outside world" they often talk to anyone about anything.


2010 Census Cautions from the Better Business Bureau
by Susan Johnson - August 3, 2009 12:07 pm

Be Cautious About Giving Info to Census Workers

With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data.

The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice

Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don't know into your home. Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census. While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, the Census Bureau will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or in person at home. However, the Census Bureau will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit


The Race is On

It's a very exciting time for genealogists, who hold the U.S. Federal Census in high regard.  The U.S. government is preparing for the massive task of counting its citizens. Before they can count, however, they need to ensure the form is asking for the appropriate information.  There is a debate going on as to what terminology to use for identifying race and ethnicity, mainly for the African American population of the United States.  See the link below for more detailed information.

2010 U.S. Census Debate

1820 was the first census year that asked information specific to non-white persons living in the home.  The previous years' forms asked for number of slaves, but did not request information about demographics of the slaves.  The 1820 census form asked for information on the ages of slaves held for both males and females, and asked for ages of free colored-persons living in the home.

The 1850 U.S. Census eliminated questions about slaves all together, making sense given the historical era. It did, however, ask about the color of the residents, as did the 1860 Census.  Both of these Census years asked for racial demographic information in terms of White, Black, or Mulatto.  The 1870 Census added Chinese and Indian to the demographic. The mostly-missing 1890 Census added some interesting terms to the question of race:  Quadroon (3 white grandparents, one black grandparent) and Octoroon (7 white great-grandparents and one 100% black great-grandparent). The 1890 Census also added Japanese to the questionnaire.

The U.S. Federal Census forms from 1900-1930 simply asked for "Color" or "Race".   I find the evolution of language to be fascinating, but I'm also a bit perplexed: It is January 25th, 2010 and they are just now battling with terminology?

03 January, 2010

Digging Deeper

In the course of my research I have spent time trying to find out who and where my ancestors were in any given time.  Today, as the new year begins to unravel, I will attempt to find out the type of people my ancestors were.  What were their beliefs? Their values? Their hobbies?  How did they perceive the world?

Since there are precious few relatives who can give me answers to some or most of these questions, I will have to rely on the study of our history during the times and in the locations in which they lived.  I will start by delving into the history and life of anthracite coal miners in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where many of my ancestors lived and worked. I will start my series by providing links and videos that provide a cursory outline of Anthracite Coal Mining in Pennsylvania.

A good place to start is the United States Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which has some wonderful information. The link will take you to a timeline of history of Anthracite Coal, which is the type of coal my ancestors mined.  The website owning that link will also give you some basic coal-mining definitions and some graphics of how coal mining works. 

Below is a series of YouTube videos shot inside a coal mine in Pennsylvania.  I find it fascinating to see what life underground is like, and as I watch this basic documentary, I find myself trying to place my ancestors "down there".

If you like photographic biographies, you'll like this final cut of the day.

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