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Volume 8, Number 5 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 March 9, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article, we finish our discussion of the Census records. You can find surprises in each Census record that warrant more investigation. It is so important for me to find out as much as I can about each answer on the Census to understand my ancestors better. I enjoy knowing more about them than just dates.
In case you missed any of the previous Census Records articles, they are listed below:
James L. Douthat
1930 and 1940 Census Findings As we wind up our discussion of the various Federal Census records, we find that the 1930 and 1940 are full of surprises. It is important to look very closely at each of the questions asked at the time and try to understand what was behind those questions. Like in the 1790-1810, the age bracket of up to 16 and over 16 years of age was so important. The country was at war and needed to know those of military age. Likewise in the 1930-1940 time frame, we were about to become engaged in the fight in Europe and service men were going to be very important again.
In the 1930 Federal Census, there are the usual questions about the personal aspects of each individual as to age, sex, marital status, etc. At the very end of this set of questions there is one very important question pertaining to the individual being a veteran. They are asked about their service in some branch of the military and in which war. In 1930, there were many Civil War veterans still alive. They could also be a veteran of the Spanish American War or even World War I. If you find your ancestor saying “YES” to the question of veteran, then you have a new avenue to trace for more information. The Civil War records are fairly well available from most usual libraries. The Spanish American War and World War I take a different approach. Records are available, but you have to dig a little deeper. Service records are a great source of information for each veteran and are very helpful in finding a tract to follow.
The 1940 Census was released in April 2012 and is the last one available until about 2022 when the 1950 will be released. This 1940 Federal Census goes into great detail about the location of each individual. You will have to know where the person was living at this time. You need to be fairly certain as to the location since the census is divided very finely. Just to know the county is not enough for this one. There might be a numerous rolls of microfilm per each county, especially if the county is big and has a large population.
Even in my small home town, there were three districts and each district was almost a full reel of microfilm. I had little trouble as I knew the street and address where the family was living. I was able to quickly find my name in the right household, right family and right town, etc. since I was one year old in 1940. However, there was one small problem. Someone outside my family was living in our household. I never remember anyone else living there and now there is no one left to tell me who this person was. This was a real surprise to me. I have an older sister who was only four at the time and she does not remember them either. With my grandparents gone and both parents gone and even the housekeeper we had in all my growing up time is gone. Answers are given, but questions are still raised with each of the Federal Census. Surprise!! Surprise!!
With the 1940 the usual questions are asked up to the age of 14 and older when they want to know about the birthplace of father and mother, mother’s native tongue, and veterans. Added to these questions are a couple of new items: Social Security - have a number, where the income is taken, usual occupation, and usual industry. One more very special questions was “Has this woman been married more than once? Age at first marriage? And number of children ever born (do not include stillbirths).” If there are answers here you get all kinds of new questions to explore. Who was the first husband? What happened to him? Children born to them vs children born later?
See what fun you can have with the census! Just remember that when you see a census in printed form, there is a likelihood that some of the real important information is not recorded. You must always consult the originals to understand the full impact that the census can have on your story. Those little tidbits of information that make our ancestors come to life are what we are after.
The Population Census from 1790-1940 are very important for the genealogist to get the facts about the families, but this is not all that is out there. Each of the census periods produced a number of other information. There are the slave census, agriculture and manufacturing census, state and territory census for different years. Each of these give details about the life and times of your family. Some of this information has been collected into published volumes and are available in many larger libraries. For the person that needs to know the history of their home area, these records are really worth the time to search them out. Knowing that my family have been Methodist for generations, I want to know what was going on in the church at the time, where they worshiped, etc. Any information that I can find to help my ancestors come alive is what I am after.
Good luck in your adventure of exploration of the past.
New Texas Books
We have just added several new Texas Genealogy Books . In these volumes you will find a short history of southwest Texas as the area was known in the 1890's when this publication came into print. Also included are the brief biographical sketches of those in the county that returned their information to the Goodspeed Publications for printing in the book. Each section of this volume has its own separate index.
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