Robin's General Store

Things from the past, new & old!

August 2, 1790 U. S. Census

Today is a remarkable day for the genealogy buff.  If not for this day 222 years ago, there would be no way for those family tree searchers to search.  On this date in the year of our Lord 1790, the first US Census was conducted.


I grew up with one of those family tree searchers….my dear mother. Many days have been spent growing up searching out those dead relatives.


 We live in the South, where visits to cemeteries are an annual event.  Family members gather once a year to place flowers on their loved ones’ graves.  This is called “Decoration” day, and is usually held on a Sunday in the month of May.   I understand that many states do not have this tradition, and think it is kind of strange.  But there have been many family reunions planned around these events.  Alas, they are waning even here in the south.


I remember one of the cemeteries that our loved ones are buried in.  It was way out in the country, and was built around a Primitive Baptist Church.  This church would be having a singing when we would come to decorate the grave. 


Now, if you have never heard Primitive Baptist singing, you would be surprised.  This singing was what is called “Fa-So-La” style of singing.  The English words are not sung, rather the tone of the scale (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do).  In harmony.  So interesting.  I have never gotten into it, but I did hear a radio program featuring a group from Alabama who conducts Fa-So-La singings.  This radio program was recently on NPR.  Again, very interesting.


The church had no air conditioning, so the singing was flung out the windows.  Such a sound!  Along with the snow cones that the church provided, this made a momentous day in the life of a little red-headed girl.


With my snow cone in one hand, and my mother’s hand in the other, we would tromp through the graveyard, looking for dead relatives.  My mother would say, “oh, there’s cousin so and so”, “there’s Aunt Ruth, she had red hair, too” or “there’s your great-great grandmother”, or some tidbit of a story passed down through the generations.


Every year it was the same.  I began to know the path through the graveyard to my relatives’ graves.  Some of the tombstones were fresh, others very old.  Some had no tombstones at all, only a stone to mark the whereabouts.


One day, we will all be there.  In the grave, in the ground.  It is unsure as to whether my descendants will tromp through the graveyard to visit my grave.  I would venture to say that they will not.  Families are scattered now across the nation.  Many grandchildren do not really know their grandparents.  Such a sad case this is.


Over the years, my mother has been to countless libraries, courthouses,  and cemeteries.  Her quest was to trace those “old dead Robbins”.  For that is where we descend from.   She would pore over huge books to find a hint of heritage.  She would pull out micro-film and rolls of film, searching until her eyes would not take any more.  She would flip through the Soundex,  and other organizational tools the library had.  My mother, the researcher.


But now, technology has arrived.  All of the hard work that she used to do has been reduced to a few keystrokes.  The census is now online, along with much more information.   She is amazed now, and a little put out, when typing in one name and birthdate brings up so much information.  Amazed at the possibilities, but put out that she has put such hard work into this over the years, and now some “young whippersnapper” can just bring it up in a snap!   However, they do not have the stories and relationships that have been gained through the many visits over the years.  They do not have the joy of poring over a huge volume, reading the very print the census taker wrote, smelling the old paper and ink, and the joy of your finger scrolling down the page, until you find it!  Your relative’s name….your grand-parent in the household of their parents, and your grand-parent’s age of 2!  What a thrill!  It’s kind of like mining for treasure.


One day, she is going to have all her information down, along with the stories, and we are going to publish a book.  All those hot Sunday treks through the cemeteries and visits to the libraries and county seats will come together in one volume.  She will have her book!


All of this would not be possible except for August 2, 1790.  On that date, the United States Government made it possible for families of 2013 to know where their forefathers lived from 1790 until the present.  Isn’t that wonderful?


Yes, it is amazing to do research on your family tree. 

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