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Sunday, April 29, 2001

Genealogy Society gets to the roots of census

Jerry Bowen

[email protected]

Group ready to help with your research

Vacaville is fortunate to have many dedicated people who care about our local history enough to put in long hours on the preservation and dissemination of information.

A while back a young lady asked me where she could find information about her family’s past. At the time, we were at the dedication of the school bells in Andrews Park. I pointed across the street to the old city hall where the Vacaville Heritage Council and the Solano Genealogy Society have their offices.

She remarked that she didn’t even know these organizations existed.

A few days later I told Nancy Morebeck about the chance encounter and she acknowledged that knowing where to get help is a problem for most of the people in this area.

As luck would have it, the Genealogy Society had just completed a two-year project and had just written a short article about it.

Ah! What an opportunity to let you know about a very hard-working group of people who are always anxious to assist and train others in the minutiae of searching out family roots. I am forever grateful to them for much of the fodder for these articles in the history column. Here is Nancy’s description of the 1900 Census project, titled “Society Members Step Back in Time-Census 1900.”

“The 2000 U.S. federal census may be completed and at the analysis stage, but members of the Solano County Genealogy Society have made a 100-year “step back in time” to create an index to the 1900 Census of Solano County.

“The federal government takes a census of those living in a specific place every decimal year. The census schedules, which were taken originally for the purpose of population numbers in assigning members to the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress, are of great assistance to genealogists and historians.

“The 1900 census lists the following for each person in the household: name; address; relationship to the head of the household; color or race; sex; month and year of birth; age at last birthday; marital status; the number of years the wife has been married; the total number of children born of that marriage, and the number living; places of birth of each individual and the parents of each individual; citizenship, if the individual is foreign-born, then the year of immigration and the number of years in the United States; the citizenship status of foreign-born individuals over age 21; occupation; whether the person can read, write, and speak English; whether the home is owned or rented; whether the home is a farm; and whether the home is mortgaged.

“Genealogists use the census as a direct look into the household at that point in time. Facts about the individual, the family, and the community can be gleaned.

“Under the coordination of Jennie Wright, 20 members of the Solano County Genealogy Society began the project of indexing every name in the 1900 Census of Solano County. The project involved reading the census, family by family, page by page and compiling the index of more than 11,000 names.

“The facts abstracted from the census for the every-name index are the following: name; age; place of birth; township; and page number.

“The name and facts help to identify whether the correct family has been located. From the census index, an individual or family can then be found more quickly in the original census. The original censuses are copied on microfilm and are available at local public libraries and at the Solano County Genealogy Society Library.

“Prior to the creation of the Solano County Census Index, a statewide head-of-household index on Soundex Cards was available through major research repositories, such as the National Archives Pacific Sierra Region in San Bruno or the California State Library in Sacramento.

“The Solano County Genealogy Society is a group of individuals meeting with the common interest in celebrating their family history. Few of the members have actual ancestors who resided in Solano County, but members have the common goal of creating a tool useful in the effort of genealogical research.

“The society has meetings the fourth Thursday of each month in the Fairfield Senior Center at 7 p.m. with a speaker on a genealogy or historical topic. The Solano County Genealogy Society also maintains a genealogy library at 620 East Main St., Vacaville, with a worldwide collection.

The public is cordially invited to come and enjoy both our meetings and our library. Solano County Genealogy Society celebrates its 20-year anniversary this April by continuing to serve the community and educate in history and genealogy.

“The 1900 U.S. Federal Census Index of Solano County is the result of a two-year volunteer project. Copies are available for purchase at the Solano County Genealogy Society Library, upstairs in the Historic Town Hall, 620 East Main Street, Vacaville. The library is open to the public Monday and the third Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The book is also available by mail. Send requests sent to: Solano County Genealogy Society, Inc., PO Box 2494 Fairfield, CA 94533-0249.”


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OK, folks, there you are. These people are always anxious to serve, so why not take them up on their offer?

I often use their services when I’m looking for something to write about. Their library is impressive and not only covers Solano County and the United States, but the rest of the world. Files make it easy to find information about people in a variety of publications, including newspapers. They also have a complete set of the Family Tree CDs with worldwide information and will help you do your research.

Well, the rest is up to you. What are you waiting for? These folks really do want to help you!