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Voter registrations can be connection

The Internet is providing genealogists with such a veritable avalanche of new digital databases it's literally impossible to keep up.

Recently Ancestry.com sent me a notice that California Voter Registrations for 1900-68 are available to subscribers online. I am a subscriber and extensively use Ancestry.com, especially its U.S. Census databases.

Searching the California Voter Registrations is similar to searching census or other records on the Ancestry.com site. Voter registration records are valuable adjuncts to census records and often are used to fill in between census years and to provide information for those years when census records were destroyed.

Curious about this new offering, I quickly tested it with a couple of family names.

My great-uncle, William Rufus Day, died in San Francisco on Nov. 10, 1940. He and my grandfather had been business partners in Asotin. Within a few years of each other, both left the city. My grandfather, C.C. Day, moved to Kennewick in 1917, and Will moved first to Oregon, then to California.

If I find Will in voter registration records, they will reveal his street address, city, occupation and political party. Other family clues also may be revealed, such as the name of a spouse or emancipated children living at the same address, if they were registered voters.

I didn't find Uncle Will in a quick test, but I got a feel for the records. There appears to be a glitch in the search engine. When I entered "William Day" in the search template, it sometimes found William on one line and Day on the next. But the William's surname wasn't Day, and the Day's first name wasn't William.

I also found that if a William lived on Day Street, the search engine didn't differentiate between the name of the person and the name of the street, resulting in horrendous overkill in the instance of William Day. It gave me every William of any surname who lived on Day Street.

Checking William Day in Alameda County, Calif., I found a William R. at 627 Santa Clara Ave., along with his wife, Esther F. Not my uncle, who was a very active Republican, whose wife's name was Harriette and went by Hallie and Hattie.

But you get the idea. The more common the name you are searching for, the more problematic searches of voter registration records will be. You also need to have a general idea where your relative lived. These records are much more valuable for genealogists who know a bit about the family and are searching for additional data than they are for genealogists looking for a needle in a hay stack.

Incidentally, when I typed in "William R. Day," the search engine didn't report any finds. When I omitted the middle initial, I scored 11 hits, and one of them was William R., mentioned above. So apparently, middle initials or names may not be searchable, but will be revealed.

I also searched for my dad's uncle, Paul Glen Day in Torrance, Calif. He died there in 1966. Found a herd of Paul's Day, and a herd of Glen's Day. Too many to wade through at the moment, but I looked at a few.

It's a bit time consuming to wait for your computer to download each image for examination after you click on the index. But, hey, the records are there and genealogists are used to nothing if not tediously pawing through records.

If you don't subscribe to Ancestry.com, check your local public library or Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some offer access to some Ancestry.com databases.

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