FINDING FRANKLIN: Helping Youth Use Census Records
Need a fun activity to help your youth learn to research census records? “Finding Franklin” gives them the opportunity to discover the wealth of information that can be found in a census.
Questions about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States lead the youth to find specifics about his family and occupation over a span of 48 years. They can then use the skills they’ve developed to find their own family in the census records.
I created this to use with FamilySearch.org, but you could try it with Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com also. Each website has different search boxes and filters, so this is a good way to point out some of its unique features. If you or your youth don’t have a free LDS account, go to https://familysearch.org/partneraccess to sign up.
I copied “Finding Franklin” with the questions and clues on one side and the hints and answers on the back. I handed out the task sheet with a few instructions and let the youth go to work.
As the youth searched, adult consultants taught them some key points about the census:
- Census records were created by the state or federal government and will contain a variety of information from year to year.
- Keep an open mind about information you find; there are often inconsistencies in names, ages, places of birth, etc.
- If at first you don’t succeed, change the search parameters.
- Always look at the image, just the basic information on the census is indexed.
- Search for all of the censuses in an individuals life.
This exercise took about an hour for the youth to complete. By the end, they had explored a variety of census records and learned about the 32nd President of the United States. We encouraged the youth to go home and look for their family in the census records!
Download the printable activity sheet here: