Saturday, March 31, 2012

Track your forebears with the census, city directories and voter lists

Are you ready to trace an ancestor’s movements in a new city? In one of our telephone conversations, my cousin J.D. told me that our ancestor in common, Henry Kreis, had left New Jersey in 1929 for the sunny shores of California. She didn’t know where in California he had gone. But here is where a census record for 1930 might help.

From experience, I know that on, you can find census records. However, to look at the actual 1930 census record, requests that you set up a free account. In the upper right corner of the first screen, click on “Sign In” to open an account.

After I signed in, I did a "residence search." In the name box, I put “Henry Kreis.”  Next, I clicked on “Residence” and filled in CA for “Residence Place” and the years “1930” to “1930” in order to bring up the 1930 US Census records.

As I looked down the results page, I found no matches. But scrolling further down the page, I found a “John H. Kreis.” A quick glance at the record told me this must be my Henry! Four items in the record convinced me this was my ancestor:
1.     The birth date was given as 1875 (Henry’s birth date)

2.     The birth place was given as “Missouri” which fits with

3.     The parents’ birth places were given as “Switzerland” which
       again fits with Henry

4.     The place of residence was Los Angeles, CA which fits with J.D.’s belief that a family story said that Henry left New Jersey in 1929, headed for California

I believe that in this new phase of his life, Henry decided to use his first name, John. He couldn’t quite leave “Henry” behind, so he used “H” as his middle initial.

Another piece of information I gleaned from the census record was Henry’s street address: 1517 Stoner Street.  His occupation was given as a “sawyer” in a lumber yard. I had gotten everything I could from the census record. Now, I needed another tool. From previous experience, I knew that with the street address and occupation I had found for Henry, I could search further in the Los Angeles city directories.

Many city directories are on the internet. A quick search on Google confirmed that several Los Angeles directories are available on-line through the Los Angeles Public Library.  In 1932, John appears to have used “Henry” as his first name again. His occupation is listed as “sawyer”. No street address is given, just the information that his residence was “West Los Angeles.”

In 1938 and 1939, he is back to “John H. Kreis”, and is listed as a “yardman” at a lumber company with “West Los Angeles” as his residence. 

Henry/John does not appear in the 1942 Los Angeles City Directory. This could indicate that he had moved or was no longer living. More research needs to be done to determine this.

While the city directories told me that Henry was living in “West Los Angeles’, they didn’t give his street address. Did he live on Stoner or had he moved? I needed another tool. Voter registration records list the street address for each voter.

The 1942 Los Angeles voter records are available at under “California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968.” If you don’t have a subscription to, you can access the program free of charge at many public libraries.

I searched the database for “John Kreis” and found him on the same street, Stoner St, as he was in the 1930 US Los Angeles Census. But I was in for a big surprise. In the 1930 Census, John/Henry was listed as a roomer in the household of Lily Fields. But in the 1942 voting registration list, Lily Fields had become “Lily Kreis”! Yes, Henry had married for the third time.

I didn’t find John or Lily in the 1952 or 1954 California Voter Registration List. I have more digging to do to find where and when my great grandfather,  Henry/John died. I am looking forward to the quest.

As you can see from this project to find Henry's whereabouts in California, I had to consult several sources. If I had stopped after only one, I would have missed so much. Instead I'm celebrating my new found knowledge.

Categories: census, genealogy tools, document types

Friday, March 16, 2012

Christmas, for this Genealogist, Came Early This Year

I received a gift two weeks ago that is rare indeed. In my posting on Dec 17, 2011, I introduced J.D., who is my second cousin once removed. I never even knew she existed until Nov of 2011.
During our first telephone conversation a few days after Thanksgiving, J.D. mentioned that her mother had left her a trunk with photos of John Kreis (her great grandfather and my great great grandfather) and his son, Henry Kreis (her grandfather and my great grandfather), and John’s citizenship papers!

Since that November day, I have been working on building a relationship with J.D., hoping that she would sometime be willing to share these documents with me. I had at least three obstacles to overcome. First, J.D. lives in New Jersey and I am in Georgia. This distance prevented any “let’s meet for lunch” invitations.

Second, J.D. has lived happily for 80+ years with no knowledge of me or the family her great grandfather John Kreis established with his first wife in Chicago, twenty years before he started a new life in New Jersey. I was a stranger on the other side of the telephone and maybe not a welcome one.
All of us build relationships in our lives – at work, at places of worship, at clubs, etc. It’s easier to “make friends” face-to-face than over the telephone lines or through letters.  But anyone who has had a pen pal can testify that strong friendships can be built with people all over the world. Of course, in the 21st century technology can really help in starting and developing long distance relationships. My third challenge with J.D. was that she doesn’t use computers.

I wrote my first letter to J.D. in early December 2011. I decided that my strategy would be to share all the documents that I have collected about our ancestors, John and Henry Kreis and their families. But I wouldn’t ask for anything back. I wanted to be clear that I wanted to share my information and to take time for us to get to know each other.
After waiting two weeks to be sure that J.D. had received my letter, I called. But it took several attempts before I reached her. And then she was leaving for a medical appointment so we couldn’t chat for long. Over the next few weeks, I would call and get an answering machine. I left a couple of messages. Then I began to be worried. I didn’t want to be a pest. But I couldn’t expect J.D. to return my calls as it would be a long distance charge.
So I was in a dilemma. I decided that all I could do was send another friendly letter with some more documents. I did this and the same routine started all over again. I was in a quandary. Was J.D. interested? Or was I just a bother? I thought that I would try one more letter with the last information that I had to offer.

Right after I sent the third letter, I received the wonderful package from J.D. and a personal letter. She had been ill, had lots of company and was sorry to have taken so long to respond. She had gone to the trouble of having someone make beautiful copies of several photos. No one from the Chicago, IL family of Henry Kreis has seen pictures of John or Henry in two generations!

My great, great grandfather Johannes Ulrich Kreis, a.k.a. "John"
from US citizenship document, 1931

My great grandfather, Johannes Christian Heinrich Kreis, a.k.a. "Henry"
family photo, not dated
What I learned from this experience is to approach genealogical relationship-building with patience and an open heart. Keep trying because you never know what might happen! I hope someday to travel to New Jersey and invite J.D. to lunch.

Categories: US citizenship, research terms

Saturday, March 10, 2012

1940 Census Tools Made Easy – Here’s a Webinar for You!

Until March 19, 2012 Legacy Family Tree has made available for free a fantastic webinar by Thomas MacEntee. To find this webinar:
  1. Go to the Legacy webinar page
  2. Look at the right hand side of the page and click on “Click here to watch a previous webinar."
  3. Scroll down to the row “Navigating the 1940 U.S. census.” Go to the furthest right side of that row and click on the green buttonWatch Now."
If you are reading this post after March 19, 2012 you can click on the bottom blue button, of the same row as described in the paragraph above, “Purchase CD” to buy a copy of the webinar.
When the webinar was over, I felt really empowered to navigate the 1940 Census. After trying to figure out all the tools myself, I was really grateful for the professional guidance offered by Mr. MacEntee. In fact, I'm going to listen to it a few more times. There's that much to learn!

Categories: census, US Agencies, genealogy education

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Release of the 1940 Census is Coming Soon -- are you ready?

Taken from
We’re all very excited about the upcoming release of the 1940 US Federal Census. And many of us have questions about the release. When will it occur? How will I access it? Will it cost money? Can I look up ancestors by name? I will address these questions in this post.

Perhaps most important is where you will find the 1940 Census on April 2, 2012. It will only be in one place: So, now you know when and where to access it. But what does it look like? What information will you find on this census?

Taken from

First of all, let’s look at the actual document. What questions were asked on the 1940 Census? This information will help prepare you for the April 2 release. You will already be familiar with the document.

The US Census Bureau website has a useful comparison of the 1940/2010 Census questions and findings. One of the many interesting comparisons is how many farmers there were in 1940 (5.1 million) and how many in 2010 (613,000).

I was fortunate to attend a local presentation on the 1940 Census Release, hosted by The Clarke-Oconee Genealogical Society and the Oconee Public Library Ivy Room in Watkinsville, GA. Mr. Shane Bell, from the National Archives (NARA) Southeast Region, presented the program "How to Prepare to Locate Your Ancestors in the 1940 Census." Since the 1940 Census will not be name-indexed by April, Mr. Bell explained how to use enumeration districts to find people.

If you do not have the opportunity to attend a local presentation on the 1940 Census put on by NARA, you will find sufficient information on two websites to make your 1940 census preparation experience a straightforward one.

The first website to check is The National Archives page What can you do now in preparation for the opening of the 1940 Census?”  NARA lists three steps that you can take now to prepare for April 2nd:
  1. “Make a list of all the people you want to look for in the 1940 census.”
  2. “Collect addresses for these people for whom you plan to search.”
  3. “Identify the enumeration district (ED) in which each address was located.” NARA lists three ways to find the ED where your ancestor lived, but the third way, the most direct and comprehensive, is to use Steve Morse’s website.
I contacted Dr. Morse, and he was very helpful in suggesting how to approach the task of identifying 1940 EDs.

First, he directed me to his article “Getting Ready for the 1940 Census: Searching Without a Name Index”.  In the third section of this article, “Enumeration Districts”, you will learn that the 1930/1940 EDs consisted of two parts: a prefix (the county) and a suffix (the district/town).

In the fourth section of the article, “Where Did the Family Live?”, he gives some great suggestions as to where you might find the 1940 address of you ancestor. Remember, if you have the 1930 address of your target ancestor, this will not be sufficient if he/she moved in the decade between 1930 and 1940.

I have a caveat to offer as you begin this process. First, have all your ducks in a row:
  1. know the geography of the area where your ancestor lived in 1940. Was it a small town?Was  it a city over 5,000 people?
  2. know the county in which the target town/city was located
  3. realize that knowing the 1930 address of your ancestor is not sufficient if he/she moved by 1940

All right. The preparation is done. It’s time to relax and follow Dr. Morse's next suggestion: take the Tutorial Quiz that leads you through the process to get to your 1940 ED. Remember, there are twists and turns in the journey. Lots of screens. But be patient. Take a break if you get lost.

Now you are all set for April 2, 2012. Be sure to remember the caution on the NARA site regarding how to access the 1940 census. It will only be available in one place. NARA and have teamed up to offer the 1940 census at a special site, free of charge with the opening bell at 9:00 am on April 2, 2012. And if you couldn't find the 1940 address of one of more of your ancestors, don't despair. The name index for the 1940 Census will be available at some point.

Categories: census, US Agencies