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Finding a microfilm copy of a US census is not hard, unless of course it is from the year 1890 which was somehow mostly destroyed by fire. The library at the local community college from which I obtained a degree in computer science has two whole floors dedicated to family history research. Finding the names you are looking for on the other hand can be really hard, especially if the indexes are incomplete or missing. You can spend hours turning a wheel on a machine trying to decipher the handwriting on pages of microfilmed census. That is why patience is considered a virtue. Fortunately, I had enough of it to get through by. The 1920 Census of Franklin County, Alabama contained the foster parents of my grandma. There she was as well, listed as a nine year old girl. The census was taken on the 12th of January well before her tenth birthday. She must have been born in 1910 after all. But wait, this was her foster parents, surely they were mistaken. Not only that, everyone knows that the ages of people listed in the census often vary by a significant amount from one census to the next. To be sure we must see 1910. That was a bad year. I didn’t have access to an index. I had to check every roll of microfilm for Jefferson County, Alabama by hand. The search paid off. The Census was taken on the 20th of April so there could be no doubt, if she was listed then she had to be born in 1909, if not, it was because she wasn’t born yet. After a long time search I found Will Mehlhorn born in Tennessee with his name still spelled the way it was spelled in his homeland. Underneath was my great-grandma Maggie whom we know so little about. Then came William’s daughter Aldie who was 10 and a seven year old son that my grandmother apparently did not even know about as he was not listed in her family bible. There was only one more line for this household, but no it was the mother of William’s first wife. There was no one named Lena Bell! “MAMAHERG” WAS NOT BORN UNTIL JULY 5,1910! Finally the argument is settled… that is if I said it loud and forceful enough.

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Comment by Kate Steere on August 12, 2009 at 5:21am
Hi-
Thank you for posting your story, its amazing how far technology has come, and how relatively easy it is to research census records now. I have several family histories of different lines of my family, and it is remarkable how much patience, love and time went into the research-
regards
Kate

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