Homepage | David K Petersen

Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



david k petersen

Our first census was taken in 1790, was overseen by Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, and recorded by US Marshals on horseback who counted 3.9 million people. That first census would be considered quite simple by today's standards. The first census consisted of 6 questions including the name of the head of the household, how many people lived there, and the numbers of free white males over and under 16, numbers of white females, all other free persons and slaves. The census grew and changed along with the country, its findings were and are crucial for planning for growth, and distribution of resources and representation. For the genealogist the census is an important tool to locate and document one's family history in the United States. Taken every 10 years it provides an important snapshot of the country's inhabitants, our families, and the communities we live in. Tracking those elusive ancestors down can be a very trying and at times unrewarding, and frustrating. Where did they go? What happened to the oldest son? why did he remarry? In years past taking a trek into the world of the census was much more difficult, time consuming and depending on how you went about it possibly an expensive trip. These days though the census is available at the touch of a keyboard and many people are engaged in what is one of the most popular internet and hobby activities, genealogy. You can find some records online at free genealogy sites and you can also subscribe to one of the online biggies such as Ancestry.com. Expect though to pay upwards of 100.00 a year or more for a subscription that allows you to search through the online census. You could however also log on for free and search to your heart's content thanks to the Mason County District Library. Per the Mason County District Library website "All of the following resources are accessible from the computers at the libraries in Ludington and Scottville. Some are also available from any computer for registered library users. To receive your user ID and Pin number for registered library patrons please email librarian@masoncounty.lib.mi.us. If you are not currently a registered library user and only wish to use these online resources please send your name, address, and phone number to librarian@masoncounty.lib.mi.us. Heritage Quest has census data, family records and local histories. This collection assembles every extant U.S. federal census, banking and military records, genealogies, local histories, primary source materials, and genealogical and local history serials. An ongoing project (new content is added weekly), Heritage Quest Online will grow to encompass obituaries, Freedman's Bank Records, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Index and additional materials. This resource is available from the libraries in Ludington and Scottville and from home for registered library patrons." Per the Mason County District Library website "Sanborn Maps were produced for over a century, more than 660,000 Sanborn maps chart the growth and development of more than 12,000 American cities and towns. Sanborn maps are large-scale plans of a city or town, drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch. They were created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property. The maps list street blocks and building numbers including numbers in use at the time the map was made and previous numbers. This subscription only covers Michigan cities and towns and is available at the libraries in Ludington and Scottville and from home for registered library patrons." These are two the resources available from the Library online and are incredible resources for the genealogist and the historian. The original insurance maps are great reference material and show the location, size of the buildings, what type of business is located there but they are rare, and very hard to find in good condition. If you wished to follow the use of a particular building over the years and also to see how it was changed these maps will show you. The databases through Heritage Quest is bound to keep you busy for hours on end as you search for, and hopefully find some of those elusive ancestors as they made their way around the country. A hundred years ago when the library was being built could anyone have imagined the resources that would be made available to patrons to access from the comfort of their home via the internet? It's not often that we can feel that we are getting good service or good value for our investments but the availability of these databases for researchers, students and genealogists through the Libraries subscriptions is a great service and one I would recommend that you take advantage of. Dave Petersen 231-757-3240 davep@blackcreekpress.com Picture Article33-001 Scottville 1916 Sanborn map

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