I have found something to save me from the monotony of long summer shifts at the police department – indexing at familysearch.org
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, it is basically looking at records (censuses, draft cards, birth certificates, federal and state records) and extracting usable information from it. I like it a lot, and it makes me feel like I am accomplishing something purposeful.
I must admit, it is rather entertaining. I learn a lot about these people and their lives and situations from just simple facts about them.
Meet the Levys, a family of Russian immigrants (from a New York 1905 census):
Harris: head of house, age 28
Gussie: Harris’s wife, age 40
Meyers & William: listed as sons of the couple, age 28 (there are also 2 other sons, ages 24 and 21, but their names were not listed).
I am guessing that they must be sons of Gussie’s from a previous marriage. But can you imagine having your mother marry someone your age?; or marrying someone the age of your sons?; or marrying someone who has children your age?; or being in any one of these situations and living all together under one roof in your small NY apartment?
I have also encountered marriages of 16 year old girls, women with 10 children, all born a year apart, birth records of Jamaican slaves, and 60 year old men registering for the draft.
I love reading the names that people give their children, whether antiquated yet whimsical (Clovise Marier DuPont, Gus Sylvester Yarovich, Ramona Mae Little) or mildly ridiculous (Dermass Ignace Dunne, Hypolite Kilrain Lincoln).
The handwriting is so elegant; often times illegible but opulent all the same. I sometime stare at a name or word for a good three minutes, trying to translate their English into mine. This one is on the more readable side:
This may seem boring, but I can’t get enough of it. It is fascinating.
Plus, I feel so cool looking at these old papers and deciphering handwriting. I feel like a legit historian handling important documents. Since I’ve always secretly wanted to do document preservation, I think I am working my way up to greater and grander archival work.