It has been twelve long years of waiting, but the United States 1940 Federal Census release is nearly upon us. This will mark the first ever digital release of the census. Government officials have been extracting 3.9 million digital images for months preparing for the release on April 2, 2012 at 9 a.m. Eastern Time.
Sorry, Ancestry.com will not have an every-name index we’re accustomed to. You’ll have to do a little digging on your families and know where they lived in 1940. Hopefully, they were the type of family who stuck around the same general area. Check out the National Archives’ dedicated site to discover how to best prepare for researching your family: http://1940census.archives.gov/
In the United States, a storm is brewing which is centered on the exceedingly gray area between freedom of information and privacy. In the US Congress is legislation hoping to prevent information within the Social Security Master Death Index from falling into public hands. The concern is that a criminal will be more able to commit identity theft. Is this a real concern?
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is one of four lawmakers who wrote letters to various genealogical sites, including Ancestry.com – urging them to restrict access to these records. Ancestry complied, and the database is currently restricted in two ways:
1)It is only accessible via paid membership.
2)For the most recent ten years, Social Security information is not given.
The Senator took his stance a step further and visited with officials at the Social Security Administration, asking them to limit information available.
There are many things wrong with the actions currently taking place.
1)Criminals who want social security numbers can get the actual cards cheap on the black market, and in bulk if they really want them. They want the card and the number. They can also purchase credit card numbers in bulk, which are also cheap. I personally have seen many fake social security cards as part of my previous occupation and the Social Security Administration takes no steps to counter this trade.
2)Criminals who want to commit identity theft really want social security and other information for someone who is living. There are already many databases which verify and check the numbers to ensure the individuals are not dead.
3)Congress is in existence to create law, not enforce ideas that are not law. The Freedom of Information Act protects public rights to these databases.
We now have members of Congress bullying agencies and publicly traded companies into submission.
To keep this information freely-available to the public, please visit the following site of the Records Preservation and Access Committee. Here is also a direct link to the petition. The petition title may look counter-intuitive, but it is the correct one.
Discovering your family heritage is one thing, but have you ever wondered what you can do with all of the data you can potentially amass regarding your family? What gift can you give your children before you pass?
I document my family tree on a weekly basis, sometimes filling in gaps while other times solidifying a particular branch. When you research your family, you should not think in terms of your surname or maiden name. You are the sum of your tree’s branches. Autosomal DNA will inform you of this explicitly. Take a look at this great informational video to grasp how your DNA is created from your ancestors:
SMGF’s Autosomal DNA Video
With the aforementioned video in mind, you can see why your family doctor asks you during your visit if you have a history of disease or other issue in your family. While you can take over-the-counter or DTC (Direct to Consumer) DNA tests to indicate whether or not you have a possible link to a particular disease or complication, another approach may afford more accurate results.
If you are serious about your genealogical research, death records are a must. Each one (at least in more recent years) should have a cause of death – usually with one or more contributing causes as well. Maintain a spreadsheet/document and you can see explicitly what your ancestors died of. Given, some will have died by accident, influenza, “natural causes” and the like. You will also find earlier stated causes of death archaic due to the immense leaps in medicine over the centuries…while other terms may need to be researched.
As an example, from all of the documentation I’ve obtained on my family, 33% of all deaths were due to heart or circulatory conditions; 12% from influenza; 7% had kidney issues; 7% cancer (various); 3% diabetes. It should be noted that every medical issue that an ancestor has is NOT in the death certificate, so they may have also had other undocumented conditions…but it does give a rough estimate.
Another interesting item you can mine from death records is the lifespan of your ancestors. An idea of what you can glean: