09 January 2012

The 1940 Census: A Webinar from the Friends of the National Archive Southeast Region

Image used during the webinar
     I just finished watching a webinar about the 1940 Census by the Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region and Constance Potter of the National Archives. This is was a great webinar that covered a lot of information. Here's a breakdown of some of what I came away with, much of which I tweeted during the webinar:
  • There will be a new website/landing page for the 1940 census on the NARA website. I'm not sure, but I got the feeling it could be live very soon. There will be a notification when the website is up.
  • On top of videos available on YouTube about the 1940 census, NARA will be releasing radio public service announcements called "Uncle Sam Calling." You can already find transcriptions of these at Steve Morse's site [here]. (Not sure if these will be on YouTube or the new 1940 website)
  • The 1940 census does not (yet!) have a person index, but is indexed by State, County, Civil District and Enumerated District.
  • Aside from the questions that were asked of the population, a number of questions were proposed but not asked. Ex: Do you dye your hair and if so, what color; who was over 6 feet tall; do you own a waffle iron and a bible.
  • Those in a jail and penitentiary were not recorded as "inmates," but were recorded by their prison number. This could be very helpful!
  • The census requires that the person providing the information for each family be marked with an X. Unfortunately, from what archivists have seen, it seems like this was rarely done. 
  • The census asks where each person lived five years ago on 1 Apr 1935. They even note if it's the "same house."
  • Military veterans are listed with the war they fought in. 
  • If a person is receiving social security benefits this is listed, though social security numbers were not recorded.
  • Women were asked about the number of marriages they'd had, when they were married and how many children they had. Stillbirths were not supposed to be counted - but like many other questions this rule wasn't always followed.
  • A census of housing and a census of agriculture were taken, but have since been destroyed. Only statistical data remains.
  • The Enumeration District Descriptions are available on OPA (Online Public Access: http://www.archives.gov/research/search) and give details about each district, including schools and other institutions included within, as well as streets.  You can see the best way to search for these here: http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/start-research.html
  • NARA recommends using the 1940 Census tools by Steve Morse to help plan your research ( http://stevemorse.org/census)
     The webinar was apparently extremely popular - more than expected it seems.  A lot of attendees had trouble with sound or even getting into the webinar.  There will be an archived copy available, but only to members of the Friends of the National Archives Southeast Region. This is a $25 a year fee and you can find more information here: http://friendsnas.org/membership.htm.

     Can you believe we're only 83 days away from 1940 census access?


Deb Ruth said...

Great post, Valerie! I attended the webinar also and did not get all the information down.

Greatly appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Hi Valerie,

Just some added information. I've put up a transcription of "Uncle Sam Calling" on the Morse (One Step) website, but it's only for 1/4 of the radio shows. The shows were put on very large records and given to radio stations. I have the first record of the set of 4, and was lucky to get it on eBay.

Also, just to clarify something on the webinar. There may be 3 separate sequences of page numbers within an ED. The "regular" entry of people enumerated starting with page 1A, 1B, 2A, etc. The "transients" who were enumerated on April 8th and 9th, 1940, and they will start on numbered page 81A, and then the "followups" of people who were not at home and were left blank census forms... and those will start on numbered page 61A.

Joel Weintraub
Dana Point, CA


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