by Abby Glann
Sticking with the theme of sources, one great source to use to start
filling in a lot of blanks fast is a census. Most areas use some sort of
census to keep track of the growth of their population. The most recent
one available in the US is the 1940 census, while Canada and the UKs
most recent released is the 1911 (following their 100 year rule). The
kind of information these usually give you is the head of the household,
the spouse or if the head was widowed, and the children living in the
house at that time. Though you can't depend on them 100 percent, they are
fantastic sources to start with. From them you get a general idea of the
birth year-most are estimates unless the taker specifically asked for
the year, where they were born, an occupation, where their parents were
born, and if you take the time to look at the neighbors, you'll often
find other relatives or future in-laws.
All this information, even when
just an estimate, can be quite helpful for finding future sources and
ancestors. A great place to access many census is through
FamilySearch.org (it's free!). If you know your great grandparents' names, general
birth dates, and places you can usually find them in a census somewhere.
Depending on your age, you may even find your parents or grandparents.
The US has census data back to 1790, but the most useful censuses,
especially for beginners, are from 1850 and after. The UK started taking
them regularly in 1801, and every ten years after. Check out familysearch.org (or if you have a subscription somewhere else like Ancestry.com) and find your family!
you know of a great site to access the census data for another country,
let us know about it in the comments and we'll add the links to this
post. We know we tend to be US-centric, but want to make sure we're
helping *all* of our cousins.