I stole a visit inside my childhood home last week and was stunned to discover the house and entire community moved ten miles away!

Impossible? Not in the world of genealogy. Ancestry.com has been diligently indexing the names on the 1940 US Census records; millions now fully searchable. And my state, Oklahoma, has been completed.

Unexpectedly faced with the 1940 US Census of both my parents, I swiftly magnified each, skimming along as I read of my parents, grandparents and great-grandmother.

Neither census revealed features unknown to my family history except for one surprising and unusual element: the address. The little unincorporated community of the house where I grew up was within the township boundaries of a Tulsa suburb that is at present, ten miles away.

Seventy-two years of city, county and US Post boundaries have evolved, dissolved or shifted and family homesteads, especially those in rural communities, may have different addresses on the 1940 Census than today. Chalk it up to the fascinating and frustrating world of genealogy: everything old is new again.

Surprised at my little discovery, it was a simple reminder that if we hope to go forward into the digging of family history, we have to keep our minds open and inviting to all possibilities. Everything and nothing is as it seems. Proud family stories are suddenly dispelled; great-grandfathers had 2nd, sometimes 3rd wives and county boundaries shift from census year to census year.

And this is supposed to be fun?

You betcha. Genealogy is a hobby that continues to reveal surprises even of our closest, immediate family and in order to stay in the game, we have to be ready when it comes.

Delight in the shifting of facts and go with the flow.

You do not have to have an Ancestry.com membership to search the 1940 US Census. All fifty states are complete and fully searchable and Ancestry.com has provided a neat trick, highlighting each category as you glide along. It allows greater readability and interpretation of results.

The world of genealogy is exploding with new ancestral records every day and the ride continues to twist and turn.

We just have to remember to turn with it.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
(Two other great resources to search the 1940 US Census are FamilySearch.org and the National Archives.)
 
 
Maxine Beatty filled her canvas tote with paper and schoolbooks, glancing at her reflection in the mirror as she turned to leave her room. Wearing her new navy and white stripped dress; Maxine dashed out the front door to catch a ride to school with Opal May.

Grace Capps laid her son's new suit across his bed: black with a crisp white shirt. She ran her fingers across the lapel and released a long sigh. Her husband Will entered the room; his smile wide as he placed a tie next to their son's suit. "Paul can where my tie, mom. See...it looks just fine."

The parents shared a glance, feeling pleased with their son Paul. It was senior picture day and graduation would be only a few weeks away; a milestone each had longed for.

Seventy-two years ago this spring, my parents, Paul Capps and Maxine Beatty, began a countdown to high school graduation. I imagine both held romantic expectations for their lives just as we all did during the weeks leading up to graduation. But unlike many of us, my parent's young adult years were filled with fear and anxiety as the world approached war.

Last week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are, featured actress Rita Wilson and her ancestral search, but unlike previous shows, Rita's search focused only on her father.

If you watched the show, you know the story. Rita traveled to Europe to learn details of her father's life before he immigrated to America. Her discoveries were stunning; learning hidden struggles of her father during and after the war. Shocking but bittersweet elements of his past life she never knew.

The release of the 1940 US Census this week, reminds us all that details of the lives of our closest ancestors--our parents and grandparents--may be lingering, waiting to be noticed. Those of us in genealogy spend hours searching for records of ancestors living centuries ago; yet the best narratives are in front of us.

The story of Rita Wilson's search of her father's history grabbed me, more than any of the previous episodes. The discovered facets of her father's untold history held close to her heart and I felt touched by the story. And I paused to consider what details are still missing of my own parent's lives.

For the next few months, the National Archives, will continue to add searchable 1940 Census records free to the public. Make an effort to find your own parents records and dig a little deeper into their narratives.

Take notice of your parent's history, just as Rita Wilson did. You may be surprised to learn their stories are just as rich and interesting as the ancestors you never knew.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl