Technology, Census Records, and the Kindness of Strangers

Here's a confession I have: I don't think I would be interested in genealogy if not for technology.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy libraries, but I've yet to actually use them for any genealogy research. The thought of spending hours looking through microfilm or making special trips to courthouses and the National Archives does not appeal to me, and I applaud my literal and figurative forebears who did such work. Fortunately, there are now plenty of online options for a young and casual researcher like me to get started.

The drawback is that it becomes doubly frustrating when you "hit the wall" - when you have a relative who should be in a particular place in a given year but Ancestry.com or Familysearch are just not turning up any results. One example of this is my 2xGreat Grandmother Sarah Margaret (Maggie?) Medley (née Corfee). I knew from her obituary that she was born in Leon, WV and eventually lived in Morgan County, OH. But I had not found her or her family in any Census results, and, since this was the "shortest" branch of my tree so far, I was eager to learn more.

The Times Recorder, Zanesville, OH

Then one day, I unexpectedly received a message on Ancestry.com. Another user had been searching for someone else, came upon a Census page that was not accurately transcribed, searched for the listed people and found that one of them was my relative. She sent me the page in question - and there they were: Joseph and Sarah M. Corfee in Mason County, WV; farmer and housekeeper in 1880. I quickly responded with many thanks - and this person went further and found the Corfees in the 1870 Census as well! It seems the Corfees moved from PA to WV around 1860, with Joseph possibly being born in Germany.

Excerpt from 1880 US Census, via ancestry.com.

Despite these discoveries, I have yet to learn about Joseph and Sarah's respective parents. But I'll explore that more in the future. For now, I'll reiterate that technology is great, but the combination of technology and people is truly amazing. Thanks, curlygirl_3d.

1 comment:

  1. I started researching my family history about 33 years ago, when I was 14 years old, before the internet was invented. Or at least before I knew anything about it!

    I loved going to the library and spending hours dizzying myself with the microfilm and microfiche machines, finding all sorts of cool things that I didn't even know to be looking for at the time. The locally published books on families in the area was great, too.

    Now, I live a thousand miles away from the place that I grew up, the place that holds over 300 years of my family's history. The internet is the only way for me to continue my research.

    While I can say that I have found more information in a shorter amount of time since I've gone online to do it, it was a more interesting adventure for me when I was able to plow through the books and old newspapers and traipse through the churches and cemeteries as a child and then later with my own children. There's just something about being where they've been that just can't be replicated online.

    Together, in the field and online make an awesome team.

    I found your blog via Geneabloggers and am following you via the Feedly Reader. Have a great day!