Thursday, September 8, 2011

Finding Family in the 1930 Census--Before It Was Indexed

Recently, I reviewed material I had collected on Census Research, in preparation for giving a talk on "Getting Ready for the 1940 Census." I discovered that I had written a report on my early experiences with researching in the 1930 Census--before Ancestry launched their every-name index. For this early work, I used the 1930 Census microfilm obtained by Western Reserve Historical Society. Following is the report I wrote about finding family members by browsing through the 1930 microfilm shortly after WRHS acquired it in 2002:

In my own situation, I was interested in searching for my mother, father, grandparents, and some aunts and uncles, all in northeastern Ohio, and most in small towns or rural areas. So, I thought, it would be relatively easy, and not the challenge of searching for people in large metropolitan areas.
In some cases, I was right, but I had to do some lengthy searching too.
The easiest to search for was my father, Walfrid Huskonen, and his parents, Evert and Ida. I found them in the township of Williamsfield, in Ashtabula County, although they weren’t living on the farm where I expected to find them. I’ll have to do some deed research to clear up that mystery.
My maternal grandmother, Grace Trip, and her son, Wallace Dingman, were in the village of Andover, Ashtabula County, right where I expected them to be. I also found her soon-to-be ex-husband living on the other end of the village.
The search for my mother was a bit more of a challenge. I knew she was teaching school in Bedford, so that was a logical place to search. I took the direct approach, looking through the two EDs for the village of Bedford in Cuyahoga County. After much line-by-line searching, I found her as a boarder in a rooming house with other teachers.
Later, I looked in the Cleveland City Directory for my grandmother Grace’s third husband-to-be, Don Stafford, and I was surprised to find he was listed as living in Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga County. Sure enough, when I looked through the census film for Chagrin Falls, there he was with his wife and two children.
This discovery led me to re-examine the Cleveland Directory. I learned that it also listed residents of several suburbs in Cuyahoga County, including Bedford. My search for my mother could have been easier if I had known this first. Her directory listing gave her address, which agreed with what I had already found in the census. It confirmed her occupation of school teacher -- with the bonus that it listed the elementary school where she taught, something I hadn’t known before. I checked the other boarders and found that one of them was her principal at the same school.
When No E.D. Map Exists
Next I tackled the search for my aunts and uncles who lived in the city of Ashtabula, Ashtabula County. I did have addresses in my records, but no information to pinpoint which of the 14 Ashtabula City E.D.s to look in. So I created my own E.D. map, using a contemporary street map of Ashtabula (I used enlarged photocopies made from the ubiquitous red-covered Commercial Survey map book series covering northern Ohio). It was a challenge trying to trace the boundaries, but I did create serviceable ED outlines that narrowed down my search to five E.D.s.
Using these aids, I found my uncle, Emil Huskon (note his shortened his surname), his wife, Mabel, and daughter, Grace, right away. I felt lucky in this case because the street they lived on served as a boundary for several EDs.
I also found my aunt, Mary Siekkinen, and her husband, Harvey, and their son, Milton, in the second of two E.D.s that contained their street, Michigan Ave. Living in the same building was Mary’s younger brother, Hugh Huskonen, and his wife, Mae L., who had been married since their last birthdays. Finding Hugh was a bonus because I had no idea about where he might be living. Also, he was listed as a steelworker, when I thought he had always been a farmer.
I aim to look for one more aunt, Wilma Seppelin, who lived in Warren, OH. I definitely will check Warren city directories for her address before attempting to find her in the 16 E.D.s covering this Trumbull County city.
Is there a common theme here? Yes, there is -- that you should be prepared with an address and where that address falls in an enumeration district, even if you have to prepare an E.D. map yourself. This is especially true if your ancestor was living in an urban area in 1930. The examples above prove that this background work is well worthwhile.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

DNA Helps Identify Titanic's Unknown Child As English, Not Finnish

This morning, I retrieved the September issue of The Hudson Green, the newsletter of the Hudson Genealogical Study Group and read the front-page article entitled  "Tiny Shoes of Dead Toddler Help Unlock Mystery of Titanic's 'unknown child'" [click here for the newsletter]. 

It immediately caught my interest because it tells how an unknown victim of the Titanic sinking was originally identified as Eino Viljami Panula of Finland (my paternal ancestry is Finnish). As I read on, I learned that the Panula child was only 13 months old when he died at sea.

The article explains that after additional DNA testing and other studies, the unknown child was finally identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin, who was 19 months old when he perished on the Titantic.

The article was well-written and informative, but I decided to do an Internet search for any additional information.  Google turned up another article, this one on the Science on MSNBC website. This article was longer and had more detail about the testing that went into finally establishing the child's identity.

According to this second article, the effort to determine the child's identity using genetics began a little over a decade ago, when Ryan Parr, an adjunct professor at Lakehead University in Ontario who has worked with DNA extracted from ancient human remains, watched some videos about the Titanic.

He and his collaborators looked at another, less mutation-prone section of the mitochondrial DNA, where they found a single difference that indicated that Goodwin might actually be the unknown child. The Armed Forces lab confirmed this when they found a second, single difference in another section of the DNA. "Luckily, it was a rare difference, so that is what gives you 98 percent certainty the identification is correct," Parr said.

The report concludes by stating that an article describing the genetic analysis that led to the final identification of the unknown child's remains was published in the June 2011 issue of the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics and is available online for a fee.

The abstract, however, is free and gives a good idea of the technical scope of the article, and particularly the role of mitochondrial DNA in making the determination. The abstract  follows: "This report describes a re-examination of the remains of a young male child recovered in the Northwest Atlantic following the loss of the Royal Mail Ship Titanic in 1912 and buried as an unknown in Halifax, Nova Scotia shortly thereafter. Following exhumation of the grave in 2001, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region 1 sequencing and odontological examination of the extremely limited skeletal remains resulted in the identification of the child as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy. This paper details recent and more extensive mitochondrial genome analyses that indicate the remains are instead most likely those of an English child, Sidney Leslie Goodwin. The case demonstrates the benefit of targeted mtDNA coding region typing in difficult forensic cases, and highlights the need for entire mtDNA sequence databases appropriate for forensic use."

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