|"The Census Enumerator"|
Norman Rockwell, 1940
So, in April 2012 how will you find your ancestors on the images? What information will be available? What is new or different about the 1940 census? At the NERGC conference last weekend I went to a well attended lecture on the upcoming 1940 census by Jean Nudd, an archivist at the Pittsfield, Massachusetts regional NARA facility. She had piles of handouts, and a well written syllabus, and an audience on the edge of their seats!
These are the major changes I found on the 1940 census form. If you look at the forms and information on the NARA website, I’m sure you will find many other changes of interest…
1. The 1940 enumerators conducted a population schedule, agriculture schedule and a housing schedule (with questions about homes similar to the farm and business schedules you may have seen in earlier censuses). Although this schedule would be of great interest to genealogist because it asked questions about rentals, mortgages, home values, heating, etc, you will not see it. It was disposed of by NARA.
2. One of the questions asked was “where were you in 1935?” This is a great clue to migration trails, and a nice way to track your ancestor midway between two censuses!
3. Employment questions. Remember that this census was taken at the end of the Great Depression. In taking so much statistical information for government purposes, they also left a genealogical goldmine for us in 2012! I counted thirteen columns of questions about employment on the 1940 form, including wages, or income derived from non-wages, or persons doing “Emergency Work” such as the CCC or WPA projects.
4. It identifies the person furnishing the information to the enumerator! Now we know who to blame for information that doesn’t match vital records.
5. Each person enumerated listed their highest grade of school completed.
6. On each page of 40 people, two random people were chosen to answer a list of supplemental questions for statistical purposes. This meant that 5% of the population was surveyed. Cross your fingers that one or two of your family members were chosen! This survey asks about a dozen extra questions, including parent’s birthplace, veteran’s service, and the new national insurance plans including Social Security (new in 1940).
Since the census won’t be indexed for a while, you will have to browse towns or enumeration districts to find your ancestors. There are aids to identifying those districts by using street maps, see the link to Steve Morse’s website below. This only works if they were living in the same home in 1930 and 1940. Otherwise, you can use town or city directories or old 1940 phone books to identify your ancestor’s street address.
Don’t forget, if you absolutely, positively can’t wait until 2 April 2012, you can always pay $65 to NARA for a transcription of one person on one census. You must be the person named in the search, or legal heir (provide a death certificate) See this link for more information for an “Age Search Service” of the 1940 to 2000 census records http://www.census.gov/genealogy/www/data/agesearch/index.html
There is a link to some great short films at the NARA website at http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/videos.html These were public newsreels and training films for the 1940 enumerators. They will give you a good preview of some of the questions the enumerators had to ask, and the types of answers you will find listed on the 1940 census forms. They are curiously humorous as well as being educational! Some of these films are also on YouTube.
http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/ for information on the 1940 census click on “1940”
http://www.1940census.net/ an alternate website about the 1940 census release, they even have a Facebook group you can join for the latest news!
Blank 1940 population schedule forms (use these as worksheets) http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/images/schedule-l.jpg
http://stevemorse.org/census/ed2040.php?year=1940 Steve Morse’s website to help you find the enumeration district of your ancestors in 1940, if they still lived in the same house as they did in 1930.
http://usa.ipums.org/usa/voliii/items1940.shtml Lists the questions on the 1940 population schedule form
Other Genealogy Blog Posts about the 1940 Census:
Leah’s Family Tree (formerly Internet Genealogist) at http://shbwgen.blogspot.com/2011/04/sngf-1940-census.html
Before My Time http://krentz.blogspot.com/2011/02/getting-ready-for-1940-census.html
NARAtions, the official NARA blog http://blogs.archives.gov/online-public-access/?p=377
Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo