Thursday, April 12, 2012

1940 Census for Big Cities as well as Vilages

Last week I reported on my first venture into the 1940 US Census. It was a small town in which I knew my grandparents had lived for a long time. For me it was the perfect place to start. 

Since then I have ventured out farther. I tried another small town in which I thought my dad was living about 3 weeks before my parents got married. Voila, there he was. He was listed as MARRIED. Well, there was a modest line drawn through the "M"; but it was not changed to "S". Maybe he had told the enumerator he was getting married soon. In the small town of Jamesport, MO, the enumerator probably knew the Baptist minister was getting married. Who knows. The census record also told me that he had worked 48 hours the previous week and that he had earned $480 dollars in 1939 for 32 weeks of work. (He had graduated from seminary in 1939.) His education level was C7 which documented his four years as an undergraduate and three years as a seminarian. He was paying $5 monthly for rent. "Neosho, Kansas" was listed as his residence on April 1, 1935 (five years previous). No more specific information was added other than an "R" which indicated that residence was not in a city, town or village of more than 2,500 residents. That was at least partially correct. On that date he was completing his junior year at Ottawa University but his permanent address was probably still in Neosho County.

Finding my mother turned out to be a little more problematic. The primary reason was that I was unsure in which small town she was teaching school in 1940. Even though she was a female and had less formal education (C3) than my dad, she had earned $675 for 36 weeks of work in 1939. She was a "boarder" but no amount is listed for the rent she was paying. She was single. Her landlady was the informant for this enumeration.

Researchers now have several sources for the 1940 Census images:
1. US National Archives (NARA)
Each of these sites has its own strengths and weaknesses. It is not my intent to provide a detailed review here -- at least not yet. However, researchers should be aware of all of them. If you are having a problem on one site, try another. The 1-Step site of Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub link to each of these sources for images. The sites also offer search engines -- often based on the 1-Step search engine.

I found the  FamilySearch site to be very helpful in locating villages in Missouri when I was searching for my mother. However, the print utility is still awkward to use. One very useful feature is the map that updates how much of what states have been indexed. Some examples from early this morning were:
1. Delaware 100%
2. Kansas 95%
3. California 7%
4. Nebraska 2%
5. Oregon 92%
6. Washington 0%
7. New York 1%
8. Colorado 97%
THANK YOU to FamilySearch for their leadership and to the volunteers who are making this happen this quickly!

If you know precisely where your family members were living in April, 1940; you can probably find them now. If you don't, I hope they lived in Delaware, Kansas, Colorado or Oregon!

I just found my wife's great-grandparents in Chicago by locating their Enumeration District (ED) in 1930 (using a name search in and using the  1-Step to convert that to the 1940 ED. For me it is easier to scan cities for street addresses in the extreme left column than it is to scan the images for surnames. One thing I was reminded of is that enumerators do not take the census in strict house number order. They walk down one side of a block and often go around the corner to a different street (or two or three) before doubling back to record the other side of the street. In some cases the other side of the street is even in a different ED. In the case of my wife's great-grandparents, the other side of their street was enumerated on image #5 for their ED. They were about 20 images removed.


  1. I think I figured out the reason for the marital status of my dad seemingly being recorded wrong. The official date for census information was April 1st. However the enumerator did not record the information until April 23rd. This was after my parents were married on April 19th. I can see how this could be confusion. It's even possible that my mom was the informant as no one is given credit for that task. My mom could not be listed as she was not a resident of the county on April 1st.

  2. I worked as an enumerator in both the 2000 and 2010 Censuses. We were taught to walk around the block, enumerating only the houses on the right side of the road. This prevented us from accidentally skipping a house. And sometimes the houses across the street were in a new ED. From your description of the 1940 Census, the procedure seems to be the same back then.
    Sherry Fry

  3. Thanks Sherry,
    Your comments help me visualize the process.