The 1940 U.S. Census Record in Genealogy: Reflecting on the Great Depression
U.S. Census records are the only records in genealogy research that describe an entire population (except for those that slip through the cracks 😉) of the U.S. on a given day and can give you the most details about a person and their family! These amazing genealogy records can give you a snapshot of how your ancestors were living at a particular time and are the best starting point, after starting with what you know, in your next step of research. They offer an enormous amount of information and details that will start you off, while leading you to many of your next steps. Not only can you find the standard information on your ancestor and their descendants like their name, age, birthplace, and residence; you can find so much more! Depending on the census record, you can also find their address, their occupation, their parents’ birthplaces, their citizenship status, their year of immigration, their marriage info, their military service info, how many children they had, others living in the household and their info, the value of their home and personal belongings, and so much more!
Continue with me on the 1940 Census in this series that takes a closer look at the 1850 to 1950 U.S. Federal Census Records.
The 1940 U.S. Census: This was the tenth U.S. Census that listed EVERY household member by name and had detailed categories, and was finally enumerated on a set date, for decades to come, of April 1st, that was first seen on the 1930 Census. This Census reflected the Great Depression and had many, many firsts! This census introduced the new details of where one was living 5 years before the census, of whether anyone was working in one of the New Deal public works programs, of highest grade of school completed, on income, and on employment. This was also the first census to eliminate details on one’s parents and veteran status. This was the first U.S. Census to indicate who provided the information, which is also invaluable!
This census record had many of the same categories and details that had been seen on and off since 1850 such as including ALL household members’ names; their ages, sex, color, and place of birth; occupation information; whether any of the household members attended school or were married; and more, but with QUITE a few changes and additions. There were many changes to the traditional census as we knew it with new categories, a lot of new details and the elimination to some of the traditional ones. I am not including the 1890 Census information that I previously spoke about, as we didn’t get to use it. 😉
Check out the changes below!
Category Name Changes:
Note: A Supplementary Questionnaire was added to this census, in which 2 random people were chosen (whoever landed on the 2 predesignated lines on the census), and if you’re lucky enough to have one of your ancestors fall on one of those 2 lines, then you will have extra clues to help in your research! You will get to know where their parents were born, what language they spoke in the home as children, if they had a social security number, if they ever received “old age” insurance or railroad retirement, if any women were married more than once and their age at first marriage, how many children were ever born to any women, if anyone was a veteran, what war they fought in if they were a veteran, and if someone’s parent was a veteran. These questions are a genealogist’s goldmine! Sadly, none of my ancestors made it to the supplementary questionnaire.
Research Tips: See how the Great Depression affected your ancestors by the new work and income questions and the new question of residence in 1935. Did they lose their job or business? Did they need to relocate either for a job, to save money by moving in with family, or any other reasons due to the depression? See who supplied the census taker with the family info, which may help to decide how valid it is.😉
Remember: Enumerators were not required to get the spelling of names; wrote down the information given to them without any proof; and made their own determination of race based on their own judgement. 😉
EVERY detail/clue helps in genealogy! 😉
Find my other posts on the U.S. Census records below, and under the Genealogy Records category!
The 1950 U.S. Census: A Post War Snapshot into the Lives of Our Ancestors!
The 1930 U.S. Census Record in Genealogy: A Closer Look
The 1920 U.S. Census Record in Genealogy: A Closer Look
The 1910 U.S. Census Record in Genealogy: A Closer Look
A Closer Look at the 1900 U.S. Census in Genealogy Research
The 1890 U.S. Census: A Tragic and Sad Loss!
The 1880 U.S. Census: A Closer Look at the Even Better Census!
The 1870 U.S. Census: A Closer Look
The 1860 U.S. Census: A Closer Look
The 1850 U.S. Census: One of the Golden Genealogy Records
Check out more information about the U.S. Census on the United States Census Bureau website and the National Archives and Records Administration website!
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