Now that the 1940 U.S. Census has been released I’m sure that you’re as interested as I am with finding your family online! Since these images are provided for free, it’s easier than ever to have access to the Census records. Note… I didn’t say that it’s easier than ever to find your family!
Without a full every name index, finding your family can be a bit challenging. However, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. The finding tools at stevemorse.org are extensive to say the least. But what is best is that there’s a finding aid for everyone! There are so many different ways to find your family that surely one method must lead you in the right direction. The key to any of the finding aids is locating the Enumeration District for the 1940 Census. One great way to do this if you already know where your family member lived in 1940 is to use the Enumeration District maps.
I was recently searching for my Great-grandfather and his family and I began by using the 1930 Enumeration District (ED) conversion tool that was provided by Ancestry.com (they use the Steve Morse Indexes). I was frustrated because the ED that they produced certainly didn’t have a listing for Adolphus/Dolphus Thomey on any of the 50 pages that I so carefully paged through. However, I remembered that on the actual Steve Morse site there is a tool for locating the ED via maps!
The ED Map tool is less specific than the other ED finding aids, but it might actually get you closer! Try following these steps.
Step 1 – Find Your Ancestor’s Address
Ideally, you’d like to have the exact address where you ancestor lived in 1940, not earlier and not later. But many of us are challenged to know these details. You can often find an address from city directories or even from the 1930 Census. If you’re fairly confident that your ancestor lived in the same place in 1930 and 1940 then you’re probably safe with the census data. If not, then you ought to go looking around in city directories, newspapers, or even draft card registrations to try to find a more current address.
I found Adolphus’s address from the 1930 Census. I tried cross checking it with city directories, but I was out of luck with the research that I could do on the internet; 1930 would have to do!
If you’re not familiar with address on census records, let me give you a brief tutorial. The tall column that spans the entire length of the left hand side of the forms was for enumerators to record the street that they were on. Some were diligent and made incredible notes when streets ended and when they began. Some were not so diligent and didn’t record anything. Be hopeful that your ancestor’s enumerator was at least somewhere in the middle of the road. Be sure to look above and below the line that your ancestor falls on as the notation may be small and where ever the enumerator was moved to write it! The first column after the street name area is the street number that the enumerator recorded for the household. Trust that these could be an approximation, but it will get you close!
So, for me, I found that Adolphus Thomey lived at 622 Olive, North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Step 2 – GoogleMap Your Ancestor’s Address
First, use GoogleMaps to locate your ancestor’s home on a map. This is helpful both to give you a good point of reference and to check out the area cross streets. Some of the cities don’t have all of the streets indexed so you won’t be able to use the regular ED finding aids that will narrow down the potential EDs by street level. This is where the maps will help you immensely!
I punched in my Great-grandfather’s address from the 1930 Census and off I went…
From this map I can easily see that he lived fairly close to the river (an excellent land mark) and he lived north of 6th Street, west of Cypress and east of Main. That will give me a good idea already of the general location.
Step 3 – Find the Enumeration District Map on stevemorse.org
Once you know the address and the general location you’ll need to head over to stevemorse.org and get the actual ED map using his tool (this link will take you right there!).
The tool requires you to select the state, county and city that you’re searching for and the result will be a link or a set of links. Depending on how urban the area was, you may have to look through several ED maps to find the one that contains the area of your ancestor’s address. Once you find the correct ED map, compare your Google map to the ED map.
In the map above you can see the GoogleMap that I found of Adolphus’s address and then I’ve marked the area on the ED map that corresponds to the general area of the GoogleMap. It clearly falls within the 60-109 ED.
Step 4 – Search the Pages of the 1940 ED You’ve Located!
Now all that’s left is to do a page by page search of the 1940 ED that you located on the map. Occasionally you may find your ancestors on the line between districts and you may need to search more than one ED, but it will certainly narrow the field!
I was happy to find Adolphus and his family right where the were in 1930… at 620 Olive Street… seems like this enumerator counted the houses differently! Note: My great-grandfather changed his name from Adolphus to Dolphus. The story goes that he was not a fan of Hitler from the very beginning and he didn’t want any associations to the ruthless dictator so he dropped the “A” from his given name. That’s why we see him here in the 1940 Census as “D Thomey”.