Saturday, August 11, 2012

Surname Saturday: Norman

We were told we were descended from vikings (among other European roots). I'm sure this postulation came more from historical associations with the word Norman than any oral family traditions that may have been passed down.
Merriam-Webster has this to say:

Origin of NORMAN
Middle English, from Anglo-French Normant, from Old Norse Northmann-, Northmathr Norseman, from northr north + mann-, mathr man; akin to Old English north north and to Old English man man
First Known Use: 13th century

We come from the land of the ice and snow...?

Despite the rather extraordinary claims, I haven't been able to confirm a Norman ancestor outside of Texas. My Norman line makes its first reliable appearance in Gonzales County, when my ggg-grandfather Benjamin F. Norman married widow Mary E. Stevens Townsend on November 10, 1854.

According to the 1860 and 1870 censuses, Benjamin F. Norman was born in Alabama around 1835, he was literate, and neither of his parents were of foreign birth. Exhaustive research into Benjamin Normans that somewhat fit this description has led me to suspect that he may have been the son of Charles Norman of Benton County, Alabama.

Of course, this is still speculative, as the only evidence I have to support the notion is that I have been unable to trace Charles' B. F. Norman beyond the 1850 census. So, currently, my Norman line is still much more Texan than viking.

More about Benjamin F. Norman

Benjamin Norman died before 1879, when his widow married Isaac S. Steen. The Gonzales County history center also had muster rolls for a Benjamin F. Norman in the Texas 22nd Cavalry, Company G. However, his age on the muster rolls have him several years younger than he should have been during the Civil War. Inconsistent ages have actually been a bane with several of my Gonzales County ancestors, but that is an issue for another time.

Children of Ben and Mary Norman:
Mary J
John A
Susan C
Virginia A

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any interest in this line.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Obtaining free census images online

Finding free genealogy and family history records online is getting easier with the efforts of many volunteers to provide scanned, searchable documents for genealogy researchers. While the 1940 U.S. Census is most prominently on the minds of family history researchers these days, census records dating back as far as 1790 are available for free on the internet.

Census records at HeritageQuest

One of the largest sources of free scanned census images can be found at HeritageQuest. This repository contains U.S. Censuses from 1790 - 1820 and 1860 - 1930.

Access to HeritageQuest requires log in through a library that is subscribed to the database. To find out if your local library system is subscribed, go to your library's website and search for HeritageQuest. If found, you should be given the option to log in at HeritageQuest with your library card number from home.

The HeritageQuest search engine only matches exact terms, therefore some troubleshooting may be required for abbreviated names and surnames with alternate spellings. The advanced search option is best for this, allowing you to customize your results by county, sex, age, race and birthplace.

Census records and data at FamilySearch

While FamilySearch only provides scanned images for the 1850, 1870, 1900 and 1940 censuses, plenty of information is provided for census years 1860 - 1930 to help you improve your search results at HeritageQuest. I like to have both sites open in separate tabs when searching HeritageQuest for census images.

In most cases, FamilySearch provides a list of each person in the household, gender, age, location and birthplace information. This data can be utilized to customize HeritageQuest census searches when the name seems to be throwing your search results off the right trail.

1940 Census at Ancestry

While the 1940 census isn't the only one available for free at Ancestry, it is the most prominent until FamilySearch has finished integrating the last remaining states into their searchable database.

There is no subscription required to view and save the 1940 Census images to your computer. You will, however, need a free member account. Don't waste your 14 day free trial on this, just sign up for the free account (if you don't have one yet), then go to the 1940 Census search page.

Please feel free to share any other free census resources in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

1940 US Census is completely searchable

Indexing of all US states on the 1940 census has been completed at Now we can search by name, even in Texas!

All that is required in order to view and download 1940 census images is a free account, so no need to utilize that 14-day free trial just yet (if you haven't already).

Most states in the 1940 US Federal Census are also searchable and available for download free at FamilySearch. All of the names have been indexed, but a handful of states, including Texas (where all of my relatives were), won't be searchable for a few more weeks.

I managed to find about half of my 1940 ancestors by browsing the enumeration districts where I thought they would be living, but many were hard to track down. I now have a complete collection of all of my husband's and my own direct lines from the 1940 census schedule. Yay!


Like with previous indexed census images, the 1940 index does have errors due to illegible handwriting, fallible informants, and surely a few typos here and there. Also, spelling variations in first and last names may be an issue, though does try to account for this situation.

If you are having no luck finding a particular ancestor, be sure to try searching instead for another relative who would have been living in the household. You can also just search for the surname within a specific area in order to uncover other relatives in the same area with a single search.

Also be sure to browse up and down census pages for relatives living nearby. I wasn't looking for my great-great grandmother yet, but stumbled across her living a few doors down from my great-grandmother's family.

Happy hunting!
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