Friday, May 11, 2012

Using the US Census to write a Family Narrative; guest post

[Geder Genealogy has begun a series of 'Guest Posts' by African Ancestored genealogists, historians and cultural evangelists. Contact us at geder.genealogy(at) if you would like to contribute.]

Heritage Quest 1930 Baltimore City, MD Census

Using the US Census to write a Family Narrative:
By Char McCargo Bah

Are you tired of going back and forth looking at the same information on the same person on the US Census? Writing a census’ narrative can eliminate that problem.  The process is very easy.  Each census year asks an individual a lot of questions.  One can use those questions and answers and turn them into a narrative.

Take for example the 1930 census. The census taker asked 32 questions. I am going to take some of those questions and answers and write a narrative on John Clark.

John Clark was living in Baltimore, Maryland in ward 5 on block 61 in the enumeration district of 4-60.  He appeared on Sheet 1A of the 1930 census.

He lived as a roomer at 232 Caroline Street with his wife and child.  The head of the household was Joshua Martin, and he was 52 years old.  Joshua’s wife, Ida was in the household and she was 36 years old.  Joshua and Ida were renters of the household.  Also in the household were three roomers, John Clark age 31, his wife, Mattie age 29 and their son, Calvin age 2.

Joshua was born in Virginia and so were his parents but his wife and her parents were born in Maryland.  John said that he was born in Virginia and that his mother was born in Virginia but his father was born in North Carolina.  John’s wife, Mattie said she was born in Virginia and so were her parents.  Little Calvin was 2 years old and his place of birth was Virginia just like his parents.

The women in the household were housewives.  Joshua was a janitor in a public building and John was a rigger for a steel plant.

You can see from this small in completed 1930 census one can tell a story about one’s family.  This process of writing a narrative also eliminates the need to go back and forth in reviewing the census for information on an individual.

Note:  Char McCargo Bah has been a genealogist since 1981; she has appeared in numerous television interviews and documentaries and has researched genealogies of well-known individuals.  She currently works as a part-time genealogist on African American families in the City of Alexandria, Virginia.  Char is a 2010 recipient of Virginia Genealogical Society Volunteer Award and a 2009 recipient of the Alexandria History Award from the Alexandria Historical Society.  Char has her own genealogy column “Char’s Corner” in the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Newsletter.  She is also pursuing her studies in genealogy at the University of Toronto.  Please feel free to contact Char McCargo Bah through her web site
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