AA130FIREMAN wrote:How many years are in the search ? When does it become public knowledge ?
According to my wife, who has done a lot of genealogy work, the census becomes public after 72 years. So right now, the newest census available to the public is 1930. In 2012, the 1940 census will become public. The 1890 census burned up, which causes great distress among those tracking their ancestors, as the trail might go cold between 1880 and 1900.
From 1790 to 1840 the US census was only head of household, and a count of males and females. Starting in 1850 all people in the house on a certain date were enumerated. So if you were visiting Aunt Mabel on that date, you would be recorded at her address, not where you normally resided. Naturally some people would be missed, and some would be double-counted. Names can be confusing, because people would often give nicknames or drop a name -- for example someone born "Emily Grace Smith" might just give the name "Grace Smith" because Grace is the name she went by. All kinds of fascinating things come out in the censuses. You see how many young men married the girl next door (literally next door), then you find the land deeds and how the farms were split up or consolidated as a result. Whole extended families -- parents, married offspring, brothers and sisters -- would disappear from an Eastern state and reappear in the West in the next census. My wife's grandfather had apparently deserted from the British army, so he went by a variety of names from one census to another. People in this area (Maine) would say they were born in the US rather than in Canada. One relative joined both the American and English armies during the revolution, and was collecting military pensions from both the US and Canada in his old age. Another ancestor, apparently forgetful or a jokester, gave a different birthplace every ten years.
Personally, I don't see any problem with this information becoming public after so many decades. Don't forget, it can cut both ways. If your great great great great uncle Richie Rich left a hundred million bucks to his descendants, wouldn't it be nice if the probate court could locate you? And if you're a Mormon, then it saves you a lot of time in the afterlife, because you already know a lot about your ancestors and don't have to spend as long getting acquainted.