Saturday, March 31, 2012

1940 Census Shirker

I admit it. Though I have been looking forward to the release of the 1940 census, like most genealogists, I have done nothing to prepare for it's release just days from now. While I have downloaded a blank 1940 census form to see the questions posed, I have looked up nary an enumeration district. I was already registered as an indexer for Family Search so I did not have to fight the crowds who, according to the Ancestry Insider, have been swamping their site.

I know where many of my close family lived in 1940 so I am not really expecting any surprises there, though I imagine I will still get a little thrill from finding people I know or knew in these long-awaited records. Beyond my own edification, I want the information from 1940 so I can attempt to track down some as yet unknown distant cousins. You never know who may have family stories or photos they are willing to share. For example, I know some of my Hartman relatives still live in Kalamazoo. They can expect to receive a cold call from me later this year.

I hope the release of the 1940 census will answer a couple of my burning questions. The big one for me is where was my grandmother's sister living? I haven't blogged about Mildred yet, but I plan to at some point. What I want to know is if Mildred was living with her boyfriend, Joseph Salpatrick in 1940 and if her kids were with her. Poor Mildred was mercilessly shot through the window in the wee hours of Christmas morning 1941 while she was preparing gifts for her children. Yes, you read that right. She was shot by none other than her apparently abusive, recently EX-boyfriend, Salpatrick. But enough of that for now.

For those of you who, like me, don't have their 1940 look-up cheat sheet prepared, here is a taste of what we can hope to find. In addition to the usual questions we have come to expect, we may also learn the highest grade of school a person completed. The census also provides us perhaps, with a two-for-one deal. People were asked if they lived in the same house in 1935 (and if not, where they lived, at least the town name). Then, in an attempt to gauge the effects of the Great Depression the enumerators asked a panel of questions about employment status, and specifically if they worked for one of the public emergency work programs (WPA, CCC, etc.).

Five percent of the population was also asked a series of supplementary questions about parents' origins, veteran status and social security questions. Unfortunately, questions beloved by many family historians were now only asked of this small segment of society. These would be (for women only): age at first marriage, if the woman had married more than once and number of children born. As disappointed as I am that these questions weren't asked of all my people, I feel worse for future genealogists when they see how few questions were asked of us in the 2010 enumeration.

For those of you with your list all ready, I congratulate you on your preparedness! If you have that task done you probably don't need me to tell you, but for everyone else, it can't hurt to put the address out there again.
On April 2nd, the only place you will be able to search (by enumeration district) is:

Happy hunting and may all of your people be in the 5%!

For more information on how the census switched from using enumerators to a by-mail system see me post:

1 comment:

  1. 1940's census not as informative as the 1900-1930 census, but still interesting to see my ancestors 10 years later,