MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

March 18, 2012

The 1940 ‘Soup-er’ US Census is coming

The genealogy world has been waiting for 10 years for the release of the next U.S. Census. The day is fast approaching when the 1940 U.S. Census is released on April 2. You won’t have to come to Muskogee Public Library to access it since it will be available free online. But you may want to come to the library for information that will make your use of it more productive and to celebrate the event.

The Muskogee County Genealogical Society will “soup up” for the big event with a “Soup-er Census” program at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Grant Foreman Room of Muskogee Public Library. Nancy Calhoun will present a program on the 1940 U.S. Census and how to get the most out of it. Those attending can get warmed up and fortified for the census hunt with some homemade soups and various snacks. All are welcome to attend the educational meetings provided each month by the society and are also invited to join the organization.

While the National Archives is expecting heavy internet traffic on April 2 and for several days to follow, no one knows how accessible the 1940 Census will be on April 2 due to the heavy demand. But genealogists are invited to attend a celebratory reception from 5 to 7 p.m. April 2 in the Genealogy and Local History Department at Muskogee Public Library. Refreshments and free handouts will be available. Bring your favorite 1940s photographs for a display any time this month and enter one of the 1940ish contests. Join in the celebration by wearing period clothing and accessories such as jewelry or a hat.

Genealogy sites are currently displaying clocks that count down how many days, minutes and seconds are left until the release. These probably provide some indication of the level of anticipation in the air as the long anticipated day looms on the horizon.

According to law, each census is not released until 72 years after it is taken. Since April 1 falls on a Sunday this year, the release will be on April 2. Bookmark it now for both release and later use: www.1940census.archives.gov.

Several changes will take place from previous releases. This census will be in a digital format and will be available at no charge on the National Archives site where it will continue to be available. There were originally no plans to release a microfilm version of the images; however, they are now available after April 2 if the microfilm is purchased for the entire state.

Many researchers are accustomed to using the indexes available on such resources as Ancestry and Heritage Quest or in printed volumes. No index will be immediately available for the 1940 U.S. Census, although plans are already underway for a virtual “army” of volunteers to attack the task immediately upon its release. Several members of the Muskogee County Genealogical Society have already made arrangements to join the volunteer force.

But this doesn’t mean that a researcher can’t find the 1940 immediately useful. There may just be some sleuthing necessary and additional time to go through an entire enumeration district. Those with the best luck will be those searching for persons who did not move between 1930 and 1940. This is because the enumeration districts did not change much between the two censuses. Therefore, if you can find a person on the 1930 and they did not move, chances are very good that they will be in the same district on the 1940 U.S. Census. Finding them will involve going through the pages listing those enumerated in that particular district.

Aids are also available which describe the geographic boundaries of a district and even show maps of the area. Therefore, if a researcher has a physical address from a resource such as a city directory, an old letter, a document such as a birth or marriage certificate, etc., they can probably determine which enumeration district will yield the sought after information.

Such aids as the 1940 Census site and Steve Morse’s site (stevemorse.org/census/) provide descriptions of districts, plus tips on getting the most from the 1940. The census is arranged by state, then county, then enumeration district. The city of Muskogee had 29 enumeration districts in 1940. Muskogee County had 67.

All U.S. Censuses are at least slightly different. The first census was in 1790, but listed only head of households until 1850 when the first “every name” census listed everyone in a household. Most only listed ages, except the 1900 gave month and year of birth for each person.

Some of the questions on the 1940 will include employment, wages, language spoken in childhood, education, and plenty more. This is the first census where the person is asked if they have a Federal Society Security Number and if deductions were taken for Federal Old-Age Insurance or Railroad Retirement. This is notable since this is the first U.S. Census after Social Security was established. If you’ve ever wondered “who in the world” gave the information on an early census, then that question is answered on the 1940 when the information provider is identified.

And then … the genealogy world can start anticipating the release of the 1950 U.S. Census in 2024. Muskogee Public Library offers access to all the U.S. Censuses from 1790 through 1930 by using the Ancestry and Heritage Quest databases in the library. Microfilm is also available.  Holders of Muskogee Public Library cards can browse Heritage Quest records any time through their home computer with internet access. There are also printed census indexes and transcriptions for some areas. These are often helpful in locating persons when a name is badly misspelled. On older censuses, the old, but tried and true, Soundex system can produce successful results.

A Beginning Genealogy Class is offered on the first Tuesday of the month in the Genealogy and Local History Department, Muskogee Public Library. Come in or sign up now for a hobby that can become the passion of a lifetime.

Nancy Calhoun works in the Genealogy and Local History Department of the Muskogee Public Library. You can reach her at (918) 682-6657, Ext. 3 or history@eok.lib.ok.us.

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