Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who Will I Look For In The 1940 Census?

Amy Coffin at The We Tree Genealogy Blog has asked who we are seeking in the 1940 census. I don't plan on attacking the census full-fledged head-on immediately, but I had better at least start thinking about it. I am still working on cleaning up the source citations and events in my RootsMagic database, which is why I'm not ready to start delving into a whole new set of records. Of course, I will probably take small breaks from that project to take a peek at a few of my most wanted in the 1940 census.

This is the census in which 3 of my 5 grandparents will appear for the first time, so I am very excited about finding them. They will be the people I look up first. My biological maternal grandfather, John Peter PEMBERTON, was a one-year-old (born in 1928) at the time of the 1930 census. He was the only one of my grandparents living in 1930. My second maternal grandfather, Clifford Robert DROUILLARD, will not be in the 1940 census because his family was still living in Windsor, Essex, Ontario, at the time. I don't believe they moved to Michigan until c. 1945.

In 1940, I expect to find my five-year-old paternal grandfather, Benford Maurice TRAHAN, in the home of his parents around Scott, Lafayette, Louisiana (Police Jury Ward 1). They should be in the same place as his parents were in the 1930 census, since they lived on that land until they moved away c. 1945 to Vinton, Calcasieu, Louisiana. My grandfather was an only child, so I don't expect any siblings. I do expect his maternal grandmother, Marie Alice (Sonnier) BONEAUX, to be living with them or right next door.

My four-year-old paternal grandmother, Merlene Golda MERTENA, should be living in Mulhall, Logan, Oklahoma, in 1940. I don't believe her family moved to Ponca City, Kay, Oklahoma, until c. 1942. She should be in the home of her parents along with her 8-year-old brother, William "Bill" MERTENA.

My 11-year-old maternal grandfather, John Peter PEMBERTON, should be living in Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan, in 1940 with his parents. They will probably be found at 729 12th St. This is the address given in his younger brother Theodore's obituary in 1935, as well as the address he gave when he applied for a social security number in 1943. It also appears as the family address in city directories from 1936-1939, so I'm fairly certain this will be the address in 1940. Also in the household should be his 10-year-old sister, Eva; 8 year-old brother, William "Bill"; 6-year-old brother, Frank; 4-year-old sister, Evelyn; and 2-year-old sister, Nancy.

My nine-year-old maternal grandmother, Violet Mae CURRIE, should be living in Flynn Township, Sanilac, Michigan. Her mother died in 1937, and she was an only child, so I expect it to just be her and her father, Archie. They should be in the same location as Archie was in 1930.

Here are some others that I would like to find:

My great-great-grandfather, Oscar TRAHAN, and his second wife, Bertha DUHON. They lived in Baytown, Harris, Texas, just outside of Houston, in 1930. Oscar was somewhat of a drifter, so I'm curious where he was in 1940. I will have to wait until the index is ready to find him.

My great-great-grandmother, Virginia PREJEAN, and her second husband, Louis SCHENKEL. They should be in or around Crowley, Acadia, Louisiana, in 1940. I cannot seem to find her in 1930, so maybe I can use her 1940 location to backtrack to 1930. I would also like to find her son, Claude DOMINGUE, in 1940. He would have been about 12-14 years old. I will probably have to wait on the index for this one too.

My great-great-grandparents, William Harmon PROFFITT and Emmer Link BAKER. They both died a few years after the 1940 census in Woods County, Oklahoma. William was a Methodist Episcopal preacher and moved around Oklahoma a lot, so I'm curious to know where they were in 1940.

My great-grandfather Archie CURRIE's sister, Bertha (Currie) DYE, and her daughter, Doris (Dye) MAZUREK. Bertha was living apart from her husband in 1930 in Pontiac, Oakland, Michigan. I am trying to figure out what happened to her after 1930. Since I discovered her a few years ago, I haven't had a chance to research onsite in Michigan. Doris is one of only two cousins that my grandmother remembers on her father's side, so I'm curious what happened to her after 1930. I wouldn't mind tracking down some of her descendants.

My uncle's paternal grandparents, Martin and Gertrude (Devers) CHAMBERLAIN. I won't ruin the story I've been blogging about by stating where they were in 1930, but I am very interested to see where they will be in 1940.

I'm sure there are several others I can't think of right now because this list seems kind of short to me. I really need to make a list from my RootsMagic database to see who I need to look for. The problem is that a lot of my old undocumented research is still sitting in my FamilyTreeMaker program that doesn't have a lot of reporting functions (it's the really old version 16.0).

In the meantime, although I won't be tackling the 1940 census right away for research purposes, I will be helping to index it. If you would like more information about indexing, please visit

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A More Sensible Response to the SSDI Access Issues

The Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing today about the proposed Keeping IDs Safe Act sponsored by U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX). The purpose of the hearing today was to discuss the history, accuracy, use and impacts of the Death Master File along with options for change. There were six testimonies heard by various parties, including the commissioner and the inspector general of the Social Security Administration (SSA), as well as representatives from the National Consumers League, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems, and the Consumer Data Industry Association. There was also a parent of a deceased child whose social security number was used fraudulently on a tax return, which is the incident that started the ball rolling for this proposed legislation. The parent speaking at the hearing was Jonathan Eric Agin, an attorney practicing in Washington, DC. The testimonies of all parties were rather interesting and somewhat educational. All testimonies can be found on the Ways and Means Committee website.

Although my rant from a few weeks ago may seem like there is no room for compromise, I do believe that some compromises can be made. This would be preferable over the total elimination of access to the SSDI. However, I would first like to address some issues I have with solutions being raised by genealogists that may not be the most logical solutions to the problem.

Some are arguing that the IRS should be able to use the SSDI to prevent indentity theft and flag a return for a deceased person. As an accountant, I can tell you that while this can be done, a deceased person being listed as a dependent or a spouse on a tax return can be perfectly legit. You are permitted to claim your deceased child as a dependent in the year of death. You are also permitted to file as married filing jointly in the year your spouse dies, and in some cases, you can file as a surviving spouse for two years after your spouse's death. So, just because a deceased person is listed on a tax return does not automatically make it fraudulent. I suppose the return could still be flagged for further investigation by an IRS auditor, but my concern is that the investigation of every single deceased person on a tax return would hold up the processing of thousands of perfectly legit returns.

Some have also suggested linking children's social security numbers to the social security numbers of parents. If the children claimed on the return are not linked to the parents, then a flag would be assigned to the return. This can be done as well, but families can be very dynamic. For instance, perhaps a child is being claimed by a grandparent or aunt/uncle this year because they have been supporting the child rather than the parents. Perhaps the child is adopted this year, or is a foster child. There are also all the cases of divorce and remarriage to consider. Again, I think this has the possibility of holding up perfectly legit returns from being processed.

All that being said, I still think access to the SSDI should be made available to those who have a legitimate need for it, including financial institutions, government agencies, and genealogists. I believe it would be reasonable to redact the social security number for at least three to five years after death. I also believe it would be reasonable to make it a paid-only database on genealogy websites. At least this way, there may be a credit card trail back to the paid user of the site.  Though I will say that if the person is stealing social security numbers from the SSDI for fraudulent use on tax returns, there is a large chance he/she would use a fraudulent credit card if it was necessary to pay for the information. has responded by making its database for paid members only and by removing social security numbers for those deceased in the last 10 years. GenealogyBank responded by removing all social security numbers, regardless of year of death, even for paid members.

I would like to respond to Mr. Agin's argument that genealogists do not need access to his daughter's birth or death information. Yes, this is true. I do not need access to her information in particular. His argument, however, is weak because from what I understand, this bill is not about allowing a parent of a deceased child to request the child's information be removed from the SSDI. The bill is about preventing the sale of the Death Master File (the source for the SSDI) to commercial agencies. Well, if the complete Death Master File cannot be sold to commercial agencies, like, then my ability to conduct genealogical research on my ancestors is severely limited.

Mr. Agin also states that it should not be hard to confirm or disprove a familial connection to someone born just six years ago. I agree. God forbid that if one of my younger family members died, I would not need the SSDI to prove the connection. In fact, the SSDI alone does not prove any connection whatsoever, as parents' names are not listed. For purposes of documenting proof of the death, I would probably use the obituary and my personal knowledge as a source. If it was a close family member, I would also use the death certificate. However, let me explain a few other situations where the SSDI can be useful to a genealogist in proving a connection and finding living family members.

Let's say you have a known ancestor named John Smith, a very common name. You know that he died on a particular date and in a particular location because you have his death certificate. Unfortunately, the informant on the death certificate did not know his parents' names. His social security number is not listed on the death certificate either. You do not have a birth certificate because he was born before they were required by law, or maybe he was an immigrant ancestor, and you don't know his exact origins. His parents are not listed on the marriage certificate. Nor are they mentioned in any court case, probate record, or will left behind by John. You are trying to determine his parents' names and his exact origins. Wait, you have just discovered that he is listed in the SSDI at! Because of this, you are able to obtain his social security number and request a copy of his SS-5 application that he filled out to request a social security number. If you had not been able to obtain his social security number from the SSDI, you may not have been able to order his SS-5 because his name is so common. Assuming this ancestor was born over 100 years ago (due to recent changes in the rules about parents' names being redacted on the SS-5), now you have his parents' names and his birthplace in the Old Country. You can now find a whole new generation of family and gain a sense of self by knowing where your ancestor originated.

The SSDI is also useful for finding ancestors who may have died in a place other than their last known residence. This is especially true when an ancestor lost touch with living relatives and moved to another part of the country. Recently, Linda over at Flipside posted about her grandmother's niece who was found in census records and city directories from 1930 to the 1950s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She finally located a close match in the SSDI with nearly the same name and the exact same birthdate, indicating that the last known address was in Louisiana. Who would have thought to look in Louisiana for a death certificate since her last know residence, according to living relatives and other available sources, was Pittsburgh? In fact, Louisiana does not have public access to a death index for deaths less than 50 years ago, so it would have been nearly impossible for her to even locate the date of death, even if Linda had known to look in Louisiana. Now, because of the SSDI, she can at least find an obituary to confirm if this is her grandmother's niece and decide whether or not to make contact with any of the listed survivors. If her grandmother's niece died in Louisiana, Linda may be able to obtain a death certificate, depending on whether or not she meets the requirements imposed by the state. This is all thanks to the SSDI!

When I was searching for my grandfather in the SSDI, I found that his SSN was issued in Ohio. I would have never guessed that he lived in Ohio. As far as I knew, he had lived in Michigan, Florida, and Canada. Now I know that I should order his SS-5 to find out what he was doing in Ohio. The SS-5 should list his Ohio employer. I may not have ordered his SS-5 if I hadn't known his number was issued in Ohio because sometimes the SS-5 does not provide any more pertinent information than can be found on a death certificate or in an obituary.

For me, genealogy is not just a "hobby." It is my main activity I participate in besides my profession as an accountant. It's a lifestyle. I define myself as a genealogist, even more so than as an accountant. It's hard to explain to non-genealogists like Mr. Agin how it makes me feel when I discover a new branch of the family tree, or a tidbit of information about an ancestor not previously known to me. That's why I created this blog: to try to communicate to others the joy of genealogical research. The feelings expressed by celebrities discovering their ancestors on the television show Who Do You Think You Are? are real. That's often the same way that I feel, and I have been doing this kind of research for over 10 years. Completely eliminating access to the SSDI will not stop me from being able to do my research, but it will cause a large barrier, especially for my research in states that do not have public death indexes available. I'm not sure how many branches of family trees will be lost if SSDI access is eliminated.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update on January Goals and New February Goals

Well, I did okay on my January goals. Not perfect, but decent. See updates in red below.

  • Complete the Intro to Genealogy course offered through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I started the course on 12/7 and have until 1/29 to take the exam. I am on track so far, assuming I complete the lesson for Week 4 before Wednesday. I have found the work so far to be rather easy. I suppose it's because I'm an intermediate genealogist taking a beginner's course, but it is a prerequisite to taking the more advanced courses. It has been fun reminiscing about my research in my early years of genealogy research. 
I finished the course a week early and made an A+ in the class! The class was actually called Methodology: Part I - Getting Started. The topics for the class were things like types of sources, various forms used in genealogical research, how to complete a research plan, what kinds of repositories genealogists use, how to evaluate evidence, etc. It consisted of six modules, each of which included a written assignment. The written  assignments included two case studies, one which was graded. The graded case study involved transcribing records, writing a research plan, evaluating the sources given, inferring facts from the sources given, etc. I am scheduled to start Methodology: Part II - Organizing and Skillbuilding next week.
  • Complete the maintenance of cleaning up sources and events for the families of the children of my great-great-grandparents, Lovell and Alvina (Lesperance) Pemberton. I started on this family in December, and have finished with ten of the thirteen children. I am currently working on the family of Leo and Madeline (Pemberton) Carnahan. I have finished cleaning up the sources for them and their children. I am now moving on to cleaning up the Carnahan family sources that I have. I did not do any real research on the Carnahan's beyond Leo's parents and siblings, since they were a collateral line. I do have some info I gathered from online family trees for Leo's grandparents and great-grandparents, so I need to re-evaluate the sources and decide whether or not to delete the connections and move the info to the notes section of my database until I have time or inkling to do the real research. Typically, if an online tree is my only source, I prefer to keep the info in the notes before making a connection in my database. I may be able to find more primary sources in the Michigan collections at FamilySearch and Seeking Michigan. These collections did not exist four years ago when I was doing the Carnahan research. I also need to check cousin Steve's family tree for sources, as he is a Carnahan descendant and has done much more research than I have, since this is more than a collateral line for him.
I did manage to complete the maintenance for all of Lovell and Alvina's children and their collateral lines. That was quite the feat, as they had 13 children in total! I left the Carnahan links in my database, but I did move my "sources" to the notes field instead since they weren't true sources. I didn't bother to do any research in the online records at FamilySearch for the Carnahan family or any of the other collateral lines. I decided to continue trekking on in my maintenance instead. I did find a death record for Leo Carnahan's father on cousin Steve's tree, which I added as a source. I am now working on cleaning up the Chamberlain family in my database. This is the paternal line of my uncle (see February goals below and my recent posts on Arthur).
  • I plan to input at least five records from my To Be Entered folder (including my own marriage record!).
No, I didn't get around to doing this. Boo. It's called being too lazy to hook up my computer to my scanner.
  • I plan to index at least 500 names with FamilySearch Indexing. I have gotten bad at keeping up with this.  
I didn't quite get 500 names, but I did get 211 points. I hope to increase this in February.
  • I need to write at least four emails to cousins or researchers that have emailed me within the last year about connections, getting together for visits, etc. I am VERY BAD at keeping in touch with people. I need to improve on this. 
Nope, didn't do this either. Joan, Cheryl, Steve, Virginia, I have not forgotten you! I promise!

February Goals:
  • Finish cleaning up the sources and events for the CHAMBERLAIN family and begin working on the CHATTERSON family. 
  • Look up my great-grandparents' and great-great-grandparents' siblings and their spouses and children in the SSDI, just in case access goes away at some point in the future. I really don't think that it will, but just in case...
  • Finish my posts on Arthur CHAMBERLIN and family.
  • Earn 300 points indexing at FamilySearch.
  • Start my Organizing and Skillbuilding course through NIGS.