Tag Archives: Spotlight

Presidents in the 1950 census

Okay, so despite my earlier claims, I did end up looking at the 1950 census on day one. Of my twelve living ancestors, I found seven immediately upon searching, and another two after browsing their specific town of residence; I was unsuccessful in locating the remaining three (one couple, one widow) after browsing their towns, both of which had several addresses listed “not at home.” All in all, I spent about twenty minutes looking for ancestors. Overall, I am impressed with the advances of OCR technology giving genealogists a much better start this time around than ten years earlier. Continue reading Presidents in the 1950 census

OCRing the 1950 census

The greatest achievement of the release of the 1950 Census is not the records themselves, but the technology used to index the records. On April 1, 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration released the census on a dedicated website using a unique optical character recognition (OCR) software designed to translate the handwritten names into text that can be searched online. This made 6.4 million digitized pages of the 1950 Census immediately available. Think about that – immediately available…?! It seemed too good to be true. Continue reading OCRing the 1950 census

Comparing censuses: 1940 and 1950

While the 1950 census was still in its planning stages, a primary concern of the United States Census Bureau was minimizing cost. Executing the 1940 Census had cost the federal government $67.5 million.[1] Not only had the U.S. population increased by 14% between 1940 and 1950, but the Census Bureau reported the cost of maintaining enumerators and clerks on the scale of the 1940 census would exceed previous expenditures more than twofold.[2] To offset higher costs, the Bureau eliminated “all but the most basic items” from the census schedules, asking 14 fewer questions in 1950 than in the decade before.[3] However, the 1950 census would ask a series of supplemental questions to a larger sample of the population compared to the 1940 census. Continue reading Comparing censuses: 1940 and 1950

The 1950 census – who cares?

What IS this?

Okay, I know the title of this post is not going to be popular amongst many of our readers. My original title contained at least one curse word! It’s not that I do not care about the 1950 census, it’s more of an overall appreciation of how many more records are now available at our fingertips, as well as the rise, and partial fall, of the U.S. census as a go-to resource in genealogy. Continue reading The 1950 census – who cares?

New York City vital records now available online

Last week the New York City Municipal Archives revealed a new online platform where anyone around the world can now access full color scans of more than 9 million historic New York City vital records. The collection encompasses birth, marriage, and death records from 1855 to 1949 (with some gaps).

Founded in 1950, the New York City Municipal Archives is the largest local government archive in North America. In 2013 funding was granted to begin work on the digitization of the Archive’s historic vital record collection and the multi-million-dollar project has been ongoing ever since. Continue reading New York City vital records now available online

Anne of Kiev

As much of the recent news has regarded the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I thought I would post on a distant Ukrainian ancestor of mine, Anne of Kiev, an ancestor to millions of people with western European ancestry whose siblings are ancestral to millions of eastern Europeans.[1]

Anne of Kiev, or Anna Yaroslavna, was born just under one thousand years ago in Kievan Rus, present day Ukraine, daughter of Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Kiev, and his second wife Ingegerd of Sweden. She married King Henry I of France in 1051. Continue reading Anne of Kiev

A cultural heritage database

Click on images to enlarge them.

Wouldn’t you know it. No sooner had I submitted a blog post about the MACRIS database to Vita Brevis then I discovered the entire website had been redesigned. So, it was back to the drawing board to learn how to re-navigate it. It was worth it, however, to be able to rewrite this post and share this database.

For those who might be undertaking research about historic properties and landmarks in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) is well worth a visit, filled as it is with fascinating information documented over several decades – generally from the 1960s thru the 1990s – by local historical commissions, some of whose members were more intrepid than others, and collected under one umbrella by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC). Continue reading A cultural heritage database

Ancestors of J. Michelle Childs

I’ve gotten a handful of messages recently asking if I have any relationship to U.S. District Judge Julianna Michelle Childs, who is among those President Joe Biden is considering for nomination to the United States Supreme Court. I’ll point out first that her surname is Childs and not Child, but I noted recently how adding an s to my surname was not entirely uncommon. Are we related? Probably not, but I traced her African American Childs/Chiles ancestry nonetheless! Continue reading Ancestors of J. Michelle Childs

A milestone

Late in the day on Wednesday, Vita Brevis marked an important milestone: 3,000,000 page views since it launched in January 2014. In that period, 151 bloggers have published 1,774 posts on a wide range of subjects of interest to genealogists.

Looking back at the top ten most popular posts for the period 2014-2022, I am struck by the top three: Jean Maguire’s announcement that the legendary Boston Transcript genealogical column (1911-41) was now available online, and Penny Stratton’s twin posts on elements of style: how not to make words plural, and how to feature dates in genealogical works. These three posts, from 2015 and 2016, account for about 77,000 page views, and no doubt they have driven traffic to other posts over the years. Continue reading A milestone

ICYMI: Research strategies for 2021

[Author’s note: This blog post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 20 January 2021.]

A new year offers a new chance to look at old problems with a fresh eye – and to consider fresh methods for breaking through well-established brick walls. Here is a chance to put the word out: What are your favorite approaches to beginning new research or to resolving long-standing problems?

As the editor at Vita Brevis, it is my job to write up my own research successes (and failures), and to edit the similar – but invariably different – accounts of travails and victories from the blog’s 100+ contributors. Over the years I have recommended a variety of hints and how-tos, starting with pointers on how best to utilize Google searches. Continue reading ICYMI: Research strategies for 2021