Monday, April 2, 2012

First Experiences With 1940 Census

Like many genealogists, I was excited to begin my day looking at the 1940 Census.  To begin with I went to the National Archives Unified Search site to look for the Enumeration District for some of my ancestors.  This is important because there is no index at this point for the census.  I wrote down a few to look up. It was helpful to know either the address or the enumeration district in the previous (1930 census) to narrow it down.  Otherwise if it was a big city, you could be looking through hundreds of pages.

I went to Ancestry and clicked on the 1940 Census search button.  There is limited availability at this point (but will be increasing).  Today they had the following states/territories available:  American Samoa, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New York, Panama Canal, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virgin Islands and Virginia.

So, since none of the states where I have a concentration of 20th century family were listed, I went to the National Archives 1940 Census Site.  I was able to put information in to do the search and find the census sheets, however no images came up, just a white and blank page. My guess is that they have bombarded and that we will all have to be patient! Their servers can probably handle only so much.

Disappointed, I went back to the Ancestry site and remembered that my great Grandmother Tisdale's brother Elmer Kirkland, lived in Gary, Indiana.  Because the enumeration district numbers that the site gave me based on address and 1930 enumeration district were incorrect, it made quite the goose chase for me!  It reminded me of the old days, sitting in a dark room at the archives turning the handle on the old microfilm viewers, waiting expectantly to see your ancestor's name pop from the page.

Persistence paid off and I found him!  One of the things that helped is that I had found him in a directory for 1939 and 1941 at Ancestry.  This gave me his street address which then took me here to Google Maps.  How fun is that?  There is a picture of the house as it looks today.  The map was instrumental in finding Elmer Kirkland because I could see the streets near him and as I searched through the files, I could tell by the street names and numbers if I was getting close.

Did I learn anything new about Elmer Harry Kirkland?  A little.  Now I know he completed school through 8th grade.  He had lived in the same house in 1935, so they had been there for awhile.  I already knew he was a railroad engineer, but discovered they had two men lodging in their home. 

Two lines on each sheet are chosen for supplemental questions.  This was a disappointing find for me because I have several ancestors on this census who were born in eastern Europe and I was hoping to find out more information.  This will not occur unless they were on one of those lines.

All in all it was a fun experience!  When I started genealogy at age 14 it involved a lot of letter writing and stamps.  It was hard to wait but pretty exciting when the reply came.  Today we sometimes have instant gratification, but that does not diminish my joy in finding out something new about the people who all contributed their DNA to make up me!

Have you found anyone on the 1940 census yet?

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