I, like many people I work with and see here at the Library, am interested in genealogy. I’ve done a little bit of research here and there, mainly on my mother’s side of the family. Her maiden name is Klein, her father’s first name was Henderikus, and this ended up being a good name to start with. Aside from the fact that it was often misspelled, it is a somewhat unique name which made it a little easier to trace, and I was able to find him in the census records, as well as documentation of his family’s immigration from the Netherlands. Working backwards, I eventually hit a genealogy jackpot, when I found someone from the Netherlands who had done the research for the same relatives I was looking at, all the way back to the 1600s.
My father’s last name is Smith. I have resisted doing any research on that side of the family out of fear that I would be lost in a morass of Smiths in the midwest, unable to go much further than a couple generations. However, I recently decided to give it a try. I started with my grandfather, Carl Smith (sidenote: for some reason, his nicknames were Bus and Buster. I was honestly surprised when, in my teens, I found out his name was Carl.) Using Ancestry, and searching his name with the city of Oelwein, Iowa, I find several people with that name. The first Carl Smith listed was born in 1897, and while I don’t know my grandfather’s exact birth date, I know it’s not that. There is a Carl listed born in 1923, and that looks more likely. The record is from a 1925 state census, and at first the names of the parents don’t ring a bell for me–Fred and Manna. However, I know from my grandfather’s obituary that his father was named Ferd, so an easy misspelling, and I also see a sister named Mardell on this record, whom I do recall. This is the right Carl Smith.
This state census recorded other data, as well. When using Ancestry and viewing the images, you sometimes need to be sure to use the arrow buttons to page back and forth, to see if information for the same family is continued on the previous or next page(s). In this case, the second page of information tells me that Ferd, and my grandfather, were born in Missouri–this is something I did not know! For each person in the census, it also lists their parents names, places of birth, and the state that they were married in. A little goldmine of information, all in one census. I now have my great-great grandfather’s name, along with his wife’s, to look for in older records.
Looking through these records is so interesting, for many reasons. You find out things about your family that you didn’t know, you find specific details about them that lets you know a little more about them; Ferd Smith was in the Army during World War I, he completed grade 6 and his wife completed grade 9, he was affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal church, she with a Christian one. These small details let me know a little bit more about the family my own grandfather grew up in, they let me know more about him.
Next up: looking for John and Effie Smith.