Saturday, March 10, 2012

1940 Census Preparation - Eye Opening!

Like the cobblers children who had no shoes or more recently, the contractor carpenter's home which has the unfinished addition that's been an ongoing project for years . . . well, I decided tonight would be the night I finally started my own personal preparation for the upcoming 1940 Census release.

Actually, I guess last night was the night I started, but I didn't realize it at the time. I placed a phone call to my Great Aunt living in Florida to check on some logistics of her pending move back north. Part way through the call, she began to ask how things were and if I was busy with work. I mentioned the 1940 Census and then asked her if she recalled where she was living in April 1940. She'll be 89 in May, so I knew she'd be in the census and I was fairly certain I already knew the street address where she would be listed, but I'm so glad I asked.

Without hesitation, she gave me the exact street address — 12 Oak Street, Waterbury CT. She would have been 16 years old at the time. Then came the bonus information. She said that at the time, her mom and dad (Italian Immigrant parents) were living there, but that her dad would have likely answered the questions because although her mom had learned to speak English by this point, certain words likely used by Census workers may have been unfamiliar to her. She also said her older brother John would have likely been living at home, as well as her older sister Ida, but not her sister Terry. She recalled that Terry (age 25) was living in New York City and had a job as a waitress near Radio City Music Hall at a place called the 'Down Under' restaurant. My aunt shared stories of visiting and said that Terry only worked lunch times because the business men gave very good tips.

It was an interesting conversation and my Aunt Rita seemed very interested in having me share the details of what I could find, as soon as I could find it. She also shared details for other families living in the 2-family home, as well as details about some neighbors. I realized how lucky I was and also my years of training meant that I was taking notes throughout the entire phone conversation.

Tonight I printed out a blank 1940 Census Form and filled it in based on information I had for the family from 1930, but also using my pedigree chart and family group sheets. I also used the great One Step Tool by Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub to find the 1940 Census Enumeration District for the family. The images of these descriptive books are already online and report a total population for this E.D. of just 1,591. At 40 names per side of each population schedule, that is only 40 images I'll have to inspect when April 2nd finally arrives!

One last observation too that caught my attention. I always tend to think of my ancestors as older people. In this case, my Great Aunt is the young girl and her parents — my Great Grandparents are the head of household and spouse. If listed by her correct age, my Great Grandmother will be listed as age 49, exactly the same age as me as I write this article. My Great Aunt at age 16 is nearly the same age as my youngest daughter sleeping just a few rooms down the hall. I'm reminded that my ancestors were young parents and while their lives were different from mine, i'm sure they laughed, cried, walked, napped, talked, and enjoyed their family as I do mine.

Can't wait until the release of the 1940 Census to see how close my form matches that of the Census Enumerator - and oh how I wish my Great Grandmother will be listed on one of the lines for Supplementary Questions! That will be a wonderful bonus!!