I knew that my mother's parents lived in Guilford, Connecticut, where I thought she was born, but nothing ever came up in any of the searches. She was born in 1930, so on a hunch I resigned myself to looking through the 1930 census page by page for the township (literally street by street and house by house). We had visited them when we were young and I remember that they lived way out in a rural area, but I dutifully started on page one and was very surprised (and richly rewarded) to find on page six that they lived right in town in 1930. There was my mother, all of 2/12 of a year old! She was born in February of that year and the census was taken in April. It was fun to see that they were renting back then for all of $13.00 a month. In this case, I found the birthplaces for both my grandparents and the birthplaces of all of their parents (I am now off and running in Maine, Texas, and Scotland!) In addition I got an occupation, ages at marriage, etc. What a wealth of information!
Their name, Hawkins, was spelled correctly on the census, but being handwritten had been interpreted as Hankins in the index. I am grateful that Ancestry.com provides source documents as well as the well-intentioned search indexes, as I had to locate them by visual search. Of course I have noted the correct spelling in the handy tool provided.
And that, as I am happy to say, was only the beginning. With a state (Maine) and approximate year of birth, I was able to go so much farther. Maine's birth records are available online, as well as marriage records, so I have been able to go back two more generations than I initially knew anything about. And it was just fun to walk forward in time through the censuses from the early 1800s and see the family units grow and split up and move. When I followed my grandmother's father's family to Guilford, Connecticut from Maine in the 1920 census, I then looked up the 1930 census and there they were, in Guilford with my grandmother missing from their family. But I already knew where she was, elsewhere in Guilford with a husband and a two month old baby of her own (my mother), because that was where my search started!
It was awesome to fill in the blanks like that, all in one evening! I am a believer and my Ancestry.com membership is the least expensive cost in this whole project. Thank you for a great and well-managed product.
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Other articles in the 20 November 2011 Weekly Discovery: