Monday, March 26, 2012

1940 Census - Who Will You Be Looking For?

April 2 is just a week away, and the 1940 Census will be available online.
Who will you be looking for? In pondering who I want to look for in the 1940 census, my focus is on the people on my pedigree chart. The following people were alive at the time of this census: my parents, my four grandparents and four of my great grandparents. A key piece for the two great grandmothers is that they had both remarried, which means I am looking for different surnames. The two great grandfathers had remarried as well. This census may help me to further identify the second spouses.

As we consider the information in this census it is important to remember these people were just coming out of a great depression and World War II is looming.  Just as today, people were moving in attempts to find housing and employment. We can relate to the upheaval they felt as families, often having to relocate to distant localities. When I used the simulated 1940 Census for practice, I noted the categories in the census. These are not all included in the indexing.

They include: Name, Relationship, Personal Description, Education, Place of Birth, Citizenship, Residence in April 1, 1935, Persons 14+ Employment Status, Place of birth of Father and Mother, Mother's native language, Veterans, Social Security, 14+ Usual Occupation, Industry and Class of Worker. For all women who have been married: More than once?, Age of 1st marriage, # children ever born except for stillborn.

It has been noted by some researchers that there will be an X by the person who contributed the information. I did not see this on the simulated practice sample, but will be looking for it on the actual census. The key pieces for me are the place of residence in 1935 and the number of children of the mother.

For my father and his parents it is a fairly easy process to identify the enumeration district where they lived. Actually there are two for this small town. By this time Carl and Zella Olsen had three sons (my father being five years old) and were living in Linnton, Oregon. They were in this same home in the 1930 census and lived here until the 1970s.

Carl's mother Julia Brown Olsen Carson was living in Sherwood, but died there in April of 1940, so she may not appear on the census. Zella's father Harold Hamilton Straw was probably living in Troy Mills, Linn County, Iowa. In 1930 Harold lived in Spring Grove, Linn County and in 1950 he died in Troy Mills. For him I will search in Linn County, first in Spring Grove and then in Troy Mills. These are both fairly small towns.

For my mother, her brother and their parents Orville and Helen Cole, they were in the midst of difficult times. Her father lost his job during a strike and other work was hard to come by. They eventually had to sell their home and moved into a small trailer. My mother being five years old at the time of the census is not clear on where they were living. She would like to have a better understanding of their life in Iowa, before moving to Oregon in 1941.

Orville's mother Rosa Rounds Cole Kemp was probably living in South Sioux City, Dakota County, Nebraska. In the 1930 census she is living in this city with her daughter and son-in-law. She died there in 1960. Helen's father James Peter Anderson (Pete) lived in Brunswick, Antelope, Nebraska in 1930 and died in Calloway, Custer County, Nebraska in 1965. For him I will start in Antelope County and hope for luck in finding him.

Have you signed up to be an indexer of the 1940 Census? As you can probably tell by my family scenarios indexing may be the only way I will be able to locate some of them.  City directories have not been found for locating most of them to determine the Enumeration Districts.
The registration at is simple. They provide training, and assistance both online and by telephone. As the administrator for the Genealogical Council of Oregon group I invite you to join our group. The important parts of the process of indexing are that it is easy to do and is done by two different indexers and then compared. If they have a discrepancy, then an arbitrator will make the final decision. This index will always be free to everyone and it will be an important tool in finding our ancestors.

Get your game plan ready for locating who you will be looking for in the 1940 Census.

On Wednesday I will post the story about the Cole family move to Oregon and the adjustment that entailed.


  1. Found out about this too late to help but am very intersted in seeing and using this after Apr. 2nd. Family is reluctant to discuss certain things so this maybe way around them :)
    Thanks to everyone for your hard work.

  2. You are not too late to help. Anyone can sign up at anytime to do indexing. Indexing is an ongoing process for many types of records. For the 1940 Census indexing begins shortly after the release next Monday, April 2, 2012. The difference this time is there are groups being formed to work together in specific states. Please join us even if you have just a few minutes a week.