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A guide to using the data from the census and directories from a genealogical perspective
by Bill Crant
The following is only a suggestion how one may use the census and directories based on my personal experience, there are no hard and fast rules. Since the 1921 census has inaccuracies it is always wise to verify all information contained in it with church records, Vital Statistics in Newfoundland or the Public Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL). The directories list heads of households for "virtually" every community in Newfoundland for its given timeframe.
If you are able to establish a person in a given community the 1921 census, then you might want to see if that person is listed in the same community in McAlpine's 1904 directory, which can do a few things. First you'll notice it gives the person's occupation and perhaps-other family members, although the relationship is not always defined. Although there are instances when a person is listed as John of John, etc. Given the fact that the head of household "generally" reached the age of 21, one can use this information to extrapolate a family history.
You could assume if a person was only 30 years of age in the census, but his name appears in the directory that it's possible that this was his father. This would be assuming that he was perhaps the third son of that person, first born son's are generally given the fathers, fathers name (see naming patterns). So now you see a patterns emerges, an example might be in the 1921 census you found a John DOE at 31 years of age this being for argument sake your gg grandfather. Then you've gone to the directory and found a person of the same name, perhaps that being the second son, so this may be a ggg grandfather. Now a family history is forming, although not verified, but a direction to follow.
I must state here that you have to be open-minded when it comes to the spelling of surnames, they may vary for one census to another and one directory to another. As in my family the name appears as GRANT, CRAINT and CRANT. Simply because the spelling isn't as you know it today don't rule out any possibilities.
If you continue with other directories in a similar fashion you might notice that between various years a person that was in the 1904 and not in the 1898, he may have been younger than 21 in 1898, therefore you can approximate his age to be ca. 27 in 1904 or born after 1877, again he might have been omitted, so check the 1871 directory. This process may build what I term a tentative family history, but it only works on the male, since the only women listed in these directories are widows and business owners.
You can check each directory and collect a list of family names in a given community and with this list make certain assumptions as to what relationship was. After that it becomes a matter of verifying this data through various other methods. These collections are purely speculative and in now way scientific, the relationships will be based on your knowledge of factors that you acquired or will acquire while finding your Ancestors in Newfoundland and Labrador. Such things as naming patterns, sometimes it's wise to ask a family member what patterns they used in naming children, etc.
This now brings me to naming patterns. Over the years families in Newfoundland had a fairly consistent method of naming their children. The generally accepted way was to name the first born son after the fathers, father. The second born son after the wife's fathers the third after the father. This would have been similar with females, the first born daughter named for the fathers mother, second, the mothers mother and third after the mother. If there were more children they might have been given another family members name, but no real pattern I have seen as to exactly who.
One again this is not a scientific method, one has to confirm all this data for accuracy. What I hope I have done is provide you with some insight to getting started and a general direction to follow up on when "Finding your Ancestors in Newfoundland and Labrador".
I have also felt that migration patterns should be used when attempting to make a family history. This is generally needed once a person "hit's a brick wall". Much depends on what part of the province an ancestor resided. You might find that a person's family migrated from east to west over the years. Using my personal experience, my family came to Ramea from Great Jervois (again the spelling of a community may vary over time, this was called Great Jervis, Great Jarvis , Great Jervais and Grand Jervis), prior to that various locations in the Head of Bay D'Espoir, and the first occurrence in Wreck Cove, Fortune Bay. Generally much of the migration occurred as a result of the fisheries and exhausting accessibility to water frontage. A fisherman's son may have reached maturity and decided it's time to earn his own way in life, but without access to the sea, he may have simply pulled up stakes, moved down the coast to a less populated area and built a new life for himself, perhaps marrying in that community. As generations passed this would occur on various occasions within each community, governmental relocation programs played a huge part in this especially in the mid twentieth century.
One has to view each area on an individual basis and realize the many communities were relocated or simply abandoned.
Written and Provided by Bill Crant
Page Revised: January - 2003 (Don Tate)
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