By Shannon Bennett, Student
I love maps. Really, maps are a fantastic research tool, and even more important when you are using census records. Think about it, why do you think that would be the case? I can think of several reasons; hopefully mine and yours match.
Boundaries in the U.S. shifted, changed, and morphed over the years into what we know today. During western expansion, borders could be re-written almost overnight. Think about how many times over the course of the 10 years between enumerations this may have happened. In fact, your family may never have actually picked up and moved but that doesn’t mean that they are listed as living in the same place when the next census came along. Frustrating isn’t it?
That’s why I was excited to see a section about maps included in the US Census Records course . You should have access to the maps for the all of the places you are researching. It can really help you put the information you learn into perspective. Particularly, like I already said, if you know your family never moved but the census states differently. Locating those shifting boundaries is like turning on a light bulb on in a dark room sometimes.
Maps can also help you determine how the territorial and state boundaries shifted over various years. Even better, sometimes territories had their own censuses. This makes knowing when states formed from them even more critical. These territorial census records are interesting but they don’t always contain as much, or the same, information as the Federal records.
My husband’s family moved to the Washington Territory in the 1870s. Looking at these records helped fill in the family information in-between the Federal Censuses. It also helped reconfirm information like ages and places of birth.
Okay, I am off to take the final. See you online!