Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

1940 Census Update

Posted in Genealogy, Technology by Andy Hall on May 23, 2012

As many of you know, Ancestry recently added the enumeration pages from the 1940 U.S. Census to its website. (The same files can be viewed for free at the National Archives, here.) Indexing the several million pages by name, however, is going to take much longer — months, at least — so it will be a while before users can simply type in a name and find the person they’re looking for, anywhere in the country. For now, you have to start looking by location.

If you know the street address you’re looking for, though, there’s a handy tool available here, developed by two census researchers, Stephen P. Morse and Joel D. Weintraub, that lets users identify the specific enumeration district, which can then be accessed through Ancestry. You’ll still have to look through a number of pages of enumeration rolls, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than going by-guess-and-by-golly.

I looked up several addresses that are of interest to me in this way, and it worked pretty well. I looked up my own address and found who was living in my house 72 years ago. We’d always known what family it was, but it was interesting to see who was actually present, living in the house at that time.

What unexpected discoveries have you found in the 1940 census?

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From the original caption: “Herman Hollerith invented a ‘unit tabulator,’ shown on left of photo being operated by Operator Ann Oliver. This machine is fed cards containing census information at the rate of 400 a minute and from these, 12 separate bits of statistical information is extracted. Not so long ago, Eugene M. La Boiteaux, Census Bureau inventor, turned out a smaller, more compact machine, which extracts 58 statistics from 150 cards per minute. This machine is shown on the right and is being operated by Virginia Balinger, Assistant Supervisor of the current Inquiry Section. With the aid of this machine, statistical information from the 1940 census is expected to be compiled in 2 1/2 years.” Library of Congress.

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