What do we owe our departed loved ones? The people once behind the faces that stare at us — happily or blankly or beseechingly — from those black-and-white photographs?
I’ve been thinking about that lately, moving my parents here from Colorado, packing up box after box of albums jammed with fading Kodak photos of ordinary moments and once-in-a-lifetime vacations. Albums now in storage; albums no one might ever want to look at again.
I know I’m not alone here. But I was pleasantly surprised Saturday to see the big front page treatment the Sun-Times gave Friday’s unlocking of the 1950 U.S. Census Bureau data by the National Archives. I thought the joy of plunging into old records and tracking down relations was a personal quirk. Apparently not. https://1950census.archives.gov/. Go to “Begin Search.” Plug in the state and city, in this case Cleveland Heights, Ohio. There was exactly one result. Zoom in on the photographed census form. There is his little household: wife Sarah, my mother June, then 13, her younger sisters, Carol and Diane. My grandfather’s nation of origin was Poland and his job, an accountant in a factory — Accurate Parts Manufacturing, maker of clutches. My grandmother was born in Russia. Nothing surprising there.
My father’s father I knew would be harder. A more common name in a far bigger pool. When I plugged “Sam Steinberg” into the census for the Bronx, New York, up popped 4,585 hits. The machine learning used to read scrawled cursive entries can be maddeningly imprecise. One of the hits was “Sam Silibority.”
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