Census Records An Introduction to the 1940 Census and Searching the Census. Created by the Reference Staff at the Washington County Public Library
The Census through history The oldest existing census in the world comes from China during the Han Dynasty. This census was taken in the year 2 A.D. and is considered to be quite accurate. It recorded the population as 59.6 million, the world’s largest population. The best known reference to a Roman census was when the birth of Jesus occurred in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph had travelled there to be enumerated in the census.
The Domesday Book The most famous historic census in Europe is the Domesday Book which was undertaken by William the Conqueror in 1086. In the 15th century, the Inca Empire had a unique way to record census information as they did not have a written language. Census information was recorded on quipus which were strings from llama or alpaca hair or cotton cords with numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base-10 positional system.
Census Day in the United States was August 2, 1790.The first census began more than a year after the inauguration of President Washington and shortly before the second session of the first Congress ended. Congress assigned responsibility for the 1790 census to the marshals of the U.S. judicial districts under an act which, with minor modifications and extensions, governed census taking through 1840. The law required that every household be visited, that completed census schedules be posted in "two of the most public places within [each jurisdiction], there to remain for the inspection of all concerned..." and that "the aggregate amount of each description of persons" for every district be transmitted to the president.
Census records are the only records that describe the entire population of the United States on a particular day. The 1940 census is no different. The answers given to the census takers tell us, in detail, what the United States looked like on April 1, 1940, and what issues were most relevant to Americans after a decade of economic depression. The 1940 Census A Day in the life of a country caught between The Great Depression and the Second World War
This is Who We Were: Companion to the 1940 Census A companion resource to the 1940 Census just released by the US National Archives, This is Who We Were, provides the reader with a deeper understanding of what life was like in America in 1940 and how it compares statistically to life today. Using both original material from the 1940 Census (reprinted here in a different color), readers will find richly-illustrated Personal Profiles, Economic Data, and Current Events to give meaning and depth to what life was like in 1940 R330.973 DER; in-library use only
The 1940 census reflects economic tumult of the Great Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal recovery program of the 1930s. Between 1930 and 1940, the population of the Continental United States increased 7.2% to 131,669,275. The territories of Alaska, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and the American Virgin Islands comprised 2,477,023 people. • Besides name, age, relationship, and occupation, the 1940 census included questions about internal migration; employment status; participation in the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and National Youth Administration (NYA) programs; and years of education. The 1940 Census Source: National Archives: http://1940census.archives.gov/about
Questions recorded on the schedules were similar to those found on earlier Census schedules. As enumerators went door-to-door they recorded the location of the household and provided additional household data, such as the names for each member of the household and their relationships to the head of the household. Enumerators also recorded a personal description for each member of the household, which included their age and sex, information about the individual’s education, their birthplace and naturalization status, and specific place of residence in 1935. 1940 Census How was it different?
In addition, all individuals over the age of 14 were asked questions about their employment, and 5% of the population, those on lines 14 and 29, were asked fifteen supplementary questions. These questions asked about their parents’ birthplace, earliest language spoken in the household, questions relating to veterans, social security, occupation, and a final section specifically for women which recorded marital status and number of children born. • Source: Charlotte County Genealogical Society, Inc. 2012 1940 Census How was it different? (cont.)
The name of your relative or ancestor, and the state he or she resided in, is enough to get you started searching Census records. • The first Federal Population Census was taken in 1790, and has been taken every ten years since. However, data from recent censuses are not available after 1940 because of a 72-year restriction on access to the Census. Most researchers find it most helpful to begin with the 1940 Census and work backwards to locate people in earlier generations. • The National Archives has the census schedules on microfilm available from 1790 to 1930. (Note: Most of the 1890 Census was destroyed in a Department of Commerce fire, though partial records are available for some states.) Part II:Searching the Census
Census records can provide the building blocks of your research, allowing you to both confirm information, and to learn more. • From 1850 to 1930, details are provided for all individuals in each household, such as: • names of family members • their ages at a certain point in time • their state or country of birth • their parent's birthplaces • year of immigration (cont.) What can the Census tell me?
street address • marriage status and years of marriage • occupation(s) • value of their home and personal belongings • the crops that they grew (in agricultural schedules), etc. • Not all of this kind of information is available in every census. Before the 1850 Census, few of these details were recorded. From 1790-1840, only the head of household is listed and the number of household members in selected age groups. What can the Census tell me (cont.)
Websites: • Stephen Morse Unified 1940 Census ED Finder http://www.stevemorse.org/census/ FAQ’s about the 1940 Census: http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/index.html Searchable 1940 Census (provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) https://familysearch.org/1940census/ • Join the 1940 Census Indexing project: https://the1940census.com/
The Collection consists of six core data sets • U.S. Federal Census from 1790 to 1940 • Genealogy and local history books • Periodical Source Index (PERSI) • Revolutionary War records • Freedman’s Bank Records • U.S. Congressional Serial Set HeritageQuest Online Is a comprehensive treasury of American Genealogical resources—rich in primary sources, local and family histories and finding aids
HeritageQuest Online Take a short tutorial. Our Reference staff is prepared to show you in more detail how to use HeritageQuestJust ask!
Who will you find? For additional assistance stop by the library or email: RefDesk@wcpl.net
Please Note: HeritageQuest Online is accessible at all branches of the Washington County Public Library. It is also available remotely for WCPL card-holders. It must be accessed through the library’s webpage: www.wcpl.net
Other resources The library offers links to a variety of History and Genealogy websites. Visit our “Selected Sites” webpage: http://www.wcpl.net/eshelf-research/selected-sites/more-help