Just like the draft board gentleman to the right, blindly digging out a name from a barrel, which member of your family will you pull out of the 1940 census on April 2nd? This image is a great reminder of how blind we will all be when the images are released by the National Archives. With no searchable name index available, we must do a lot of extra homework to track down our ancestors!
So….what should you expect on April 2nd?
All we know at this point, is that the images will be released to everyone at this special web site, at 9:00AM Eastern: http://1940census.archives.gov
Each state will be indexed to the enumeration level – which means you will be able to see batches of images lumped together by their Enumeration District number. A name index will NOT be available at this time. To learn more about the nationwide effort to help index the 1940 Census, please see this previous post.
How can you find an Enumeration District number for your ancestors?
Locate their address in 1940!
This is where true detective work is necessary to track down the elusive information. Follow some of these tips for finding their address:
- Start a list or inventory of all of the family members/ancestors that would have been alive in 1940.
- Look at personal mementos or letters/records already in your family’s possession that might list an address. Sometimes a greeting card will still be kept in an envelope that lists the address – & don’t forget about postcards!
- City Directories: These are mainly for those family members who lived in larger urban areas. Unfortunately, you would need to consult real print versions of these, so get ready to track them down at local public libraries and other repositories. In the central Kentucky area, try your public library, UK, UofL, KDLA and of course, KHS. Here in the Library we have the following City Directories for 1940: Covington, Frankfort and Lexington (Other cities with directories from the 1930s or 40s: Ashland, Bowling Green, Danville, Georgetown, Hopkinsville, Louisville, Maysville, Middlesboro, Owensboro, Paducah, Paris).
- Military records or draft cards.
- Naturalization records.
- Death certificates – I know we are trying to find the living in 1940, but any family member that died within a few years to a decade after the Census may have lived at the same address, and death certificates include an address.
- 1930 Census. If you suspect the family was at the same residence in 1930, you will not be able to see the specific address, but you will be able to obtain two very important clues: previous Enumeration District number and neighbor groups that surrounded the family and who may still surround the family in 1940 (See the next section on how this number can help you in lieu of an actual address.)
- Travel back in time: Well, not exactly, but in the area of your research. If you are not having much luck with 1940, go back to records that are between 5-10 years earlier if you suspect they lived in the same place. Or, travel forward if you suspect they moved just before the census was taken.
So….once you have the address or 1930 Enumeration District Number….then what?
- Visit the NARA Online Public Access Portal to review the local Enumeration District maps of each county or large city. http://www.archives.gov/research/search Once here, simply type in the following search: 1940 Census maps + the county + the state (example: 1940 census maps + Franklin + Kentucky). The result will be a county and/or city-wide map of your requested area sectioned off and labeled with their Enumeration District numbers. Within the rural areas, the roads will not always be named – sometimes you will only see the old highway numbers within a circle – which means you may want to look at a modern map as a visual comparison. For the larger cities, the street names are included.
- If you have the Enumeration District number from the 1930 Census, visit the same page as above and use the following search: 1940 Census Enumeration District descriptions + the county + the state. The result will be table descriptions, instead of maps, which lists the areas covered per Enumeration District, plus the 1940 number alongside the 1930 number.
Now that you have their 1940 Census Enumeration District number in hand, you will be able to pull up that Enumeration District at the NARA 1940 Census images web site listed at the beginning of this post.
And then…..browse the Census entries in this Enumeration District until you find your family unit. This is where viewing the 1930 list of family units in the area might prove to be helpful as a method of visually catching patterns when browsing through many pages of data.
For all other family units – repeat all of the steps above!
Need additional help with this process? Join KHS and KGS for the April 14th Second Saturday workshop: The 1940 Census: Introduction, Instruction and Celebration. To reserve your free seat at this program, simply contact the KHS Reference Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you would like to reserve a box lunch for the workshop ($6 payable upon arrival), be sure to have your reservation in to us by noon on April 13th. **NOTE** This celebration will include cake, balloons, and door prizes – including three year-long memberships to Archives.com!
-- Cheri Daniels, Senior Librarian/Reference Specialist