Sunday, April 29, 2012

New York History: A NY Classic: Drums Along the Mohawk

New York History: A NY Classic: Drums Along the Mohawk: After its first publication in 1936, Walter D. Edmonds' classic historical novel Drums Along the Mohawk battled Gone With the Wind as the most popular historical novel of the ensuing years, and became a feature film in 1939 directed by John Ford, and starring Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda. Edmond's sources were varied, but he pointed out the importance of the Minute Book of the Committee of Safety of Tryon County "to understand what valley life was really like". This summer we will be able to have a taste of that life at an outdoor drama based on Drums Along the Mohawk that coincides with the British Brigade and Continental Line’s national Revolutionary War encampment at Gelston Castle Estate in Mohawk, NY. About 1,000 reenactors are expected to take part in honor of the 235th anniversary of the Battle of Oriskany. My Revolutionary War ancestor, Michael Edick (Ittig) was there. His name is in the book, and his family lived through the events of the day. So did the Fonda acting family ancestor, for whom the upstate town of Fonda is named. I think it will be great to see this outdoor drama and get a small sample of the difficult and frightening life they led on the "New York frontier."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The 1940 Census Comes to Town

No foolin'! It's finally here, the day many of us have been eagerly awaiting for several months, the release of the 1940 census.

Details about the lives of approximately 132 million Americans were recorded with the taking of the 1940 census, and these details are being made available to researchers for the first time. The 1940 census will be the first U. S. census to be released digitally, and the first one to be available to researchers everywhere for free on its release date. Here are some places on the Internet to find these tantalizing facts.

At 9 a.m. on Monday morning, April 2, 2012, the entire 1940 Census will be available online at the following National Archives website:

You will be able to browse digital images of the census records for free on shortly after the official release.
With census template and facts, this site will have the 1940 census available for free soon after release. This company is also participating in the community-based indexing project for this census.

Bureau of the Census:
You will be able to find the enumerator’s instructions for the 1940 census here. It is interesting to read these instructions, and this information can also help to clarify what was recorded. Another site where the census will be available to search for free shortly after census day is
FamilySearch is also leading the community-based indexing project.

Steve Morse’s Site: will have a unified 1940 census enumeration district finder. Steve Morse has a lot of helpful information; in particular his guidance to search the Ellis Island database is worth checking out.

As you may already know, the 1940 census will not be indexed upon release. Until the indexes are created, you can locate individuals of interest by conducting geographic-based searches through the census data. Start with a possible address for the family you are interested in finding. Use Google Maps to locate cross-streets. Then use the cross-streets in the “Unified Census Finder” to narrow down to one or two Enumeration Districts. Pay attention to street names and house numbers; many were renumbered since 1940, particularly when 911 addresses were created. Checking an older City Directory can be helpful.

Let’s really celebrate the release of the 1940 census by finding our families among its pages, and by updating and sharing family stories that will certainly contain new chapters based on 1940 census data. Let your fingers do the walking through the 1940 census!