We had a visitor today who knew nothing about her family except her parents names and her own birth date and place and the name of her brother. She gave her name, and asked if anyone could find any online records about her - she said she tries to keep things private.
Several of us looked at different sites. I quickly found her in the U.S. Public Records collection on Ancestry residing here in Chula Vista, with a birth date and an address. She asked "How did they get that?" Well, it was probably in a city directory and/or a telephone book, and some other public database provided the birth date.
Since she was born before 1940, I also found her family in the 1940 U.S. Census. There she was in Queens, New York, aged 10 months, with her parents and her brother. I showed that record to her, and promised to send it to her if she emailed me asking for it. She wrote down my email address.
While I was explaining the detailed information - the street address, the birthplaces, the occupation, the employment information, I noted that her father in 1940 was a clerk, and his industry was a "whore house" and he made $1,248 in 1939 (see the yellow line below).
On closer look, it is probably "whare house" but this got a good laugh from the folks listening in to our discussion!
There were several "suggested records" for her father, including:
* California Death Index
* Find A Grave entry
* 1920, 1930, 1940 U.S. Census
* New York Guard Service Cards
* Florida Passenger List entry
From those, and with a bit more searching, I was able to take her paternal line back three more generations, including the maiden names of the wives. I have yet to find a public Ancestry Member Tree for her father, or her paternal grandparents. The FamilySearch Family Tree has her paternal grandparents, but not her father in the family. It does not have her great-grandparents.
I don't know about the rest of the class members, but I had fun and may have turned another person onto genealogy research.
NOTE: I kept our visitor's name private in this post because she doesn't want it all over the Internet. My view is that I can give somebody a little help - such as a census record, but then I want them to discover more information about their family history themselves. In other words, "lead them to the water, and hope that they imbibe."
Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver