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Be Flexible and Don’t Make Assumptions

Be Flexible and Don’t Make Assumptions

After my dad died I started doing more intensive research on his life. He didn't talk about his childhood very much because he had some unhappy memories. He grew up in a family of dirt poor sharecroppers and he had to start picking cotton at a very young age. He was ridiculed in school for not having shoes and for wearing tattered hand-me-down clothes. When he left Mississippi to join the Air Force he pretty much never looked back. 

The Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957 is one of my favorite record sets. My dad did attend school from 1st through 12th grade so I knew I would find him here but I would have missed some records if I had only looked at the years when he was 6 to 18. Sometimes the records don't contain what you think they do.

Thomas Simmons is my dad and he graduated from Purvis High School in 1955. This school census is from 1957. In 1957 my dad was in the Air Force and stationed in Hahn, Germany but the school board still listed him.

Children who were not attending school anymore were still included. They are given a W code with an explanation. This is important information. Always be flexible with your searches and make sure you know exactly what information the particular record can tell you. Did I learn anything about my dad that I didn't know when I saw this page? No but I still wanted to see it. I want to see every record where my dad is mentioned. However, I could have easily learned something that I didn't know.

List of Educable Children
(click image to enlarge)

"Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 March 2017), Lamar > image 98 of 157; citing Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Box ID 15134, Series 21.

When you are looking at a record set that you haven't worked with before it is important to take some time to get to know the records. Even if I find a document for my person of interest right away I always look at many examples in the set to get a better feel for the documents. I also check to see if there is any sort of explanatory section.

You can see a good example of this in the federal census records. You should read the instructions the enumerators were given before they were sent out. The United States Census Bureau has this information online. Kathleen W. Hinkley's book, Your Guide to the Federal Census Records is an excellent resource for background information. You also need to look at the pages before and after the page that has your ancestor's family. If you take the time to  understand the records better you will be less likely to miss something.


Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.



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Could you tell me if there are Webinars or info available
On researching Western Connecticut ??.... Litchfield co.....

We have four webinars that cover Connecticut, one is specifically Western CT.

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