April 11, 2012

April 11, 2012

Read/Write Error

Genealogy is still a thing, right? Several TV series help celebrities research their histories, and sites like Ancestry.com can help even those of us without an EGOT. Gone are the days when people hid their shady immigrant pasts and real men made their own luck. Now, it’s all about where you came from, how far back your family tree goes, and how many cousins separate you and Justin Bieber.

My own family tree is pretty stumpy, since my mom immigrated from Korea and my dad’s only three or four generations removed from Europe. Your ancestors may have traveled on the Mayflower; mine came over on much later conveyances. But it’s cool, since I don’t have to worry about slaveowner guilt and all that.

But while watching Rita Wilson’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” I was inspired to poke around Ancestry.com once again to see what I could find. I’d looked through the recently-released 1940 census with no luck; the fact that you can only search by enumeration district and not by name really limits its utility. Anyhoo, I did a search on my dad’s dad and LO AND BEHOLD, he popped up in the 1930 census. He was 15 at the time, with the listed occupation of “newsboy.” Work location: “Street.” It’s like something out of Dickens.

I was all excited to discover this tidbit about a man I never met, until I looked at the head of household line for the fam. And saw that the column about reading and writing was labeled “No” for my great-grandpa and “Yes” for my great-grandma.

Excuse me, say again, WHA?

It’s possible that this is the generation that came from Poland, and so they were literate in Polish. Fingers crossed. How my great-grandma (newly coined nickname: Gramz) learned English, I cannot say. Soap operas, maybe. Wikipedia. YouTube videos. Go Gramz go. And while she of course had no job listed, my great-grandpa (Grampz) was identified as a machine operator. Indeed, I hail from humble stock. I had no idea how humble.

Maybe you will have better luck than I did with 1940. Check it out at http://1940census.archives.gov/ then report back with your findings.

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