Saturday, April 21, 2012

Avoiding the 1940 U.S. Census - Almost

You could feel the excitement and anticipation building to an end of March crescendo as genealogists with American ancestral connections awaited the release of the 1940 U.S. Census images. Social media was abuzz as the April 2nd release date approached for what some described as a genealogy 'Christmas Day'.

With both my paternal and maternal families firmly established in Canada, I thought it easy to ignore all of the build-up. The closest I was coming to the 1940 U.S. Census was my mother's family who lived in Detroit, Michigan in 1930 but they moved to Toronto, Ontario around 1937 or 1938. This lack of ancestral connection to the United States in 1940 meant that I didn't participate in any of the pre-release abundant number of webinars, forums, and learning opportunities made available. Why would I with no one to find?

I was able to relax and jealously hear from predominantly American genealogy community friends as they happily found their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in the census. In Canada, the most recent census records to be made available on a national basis are from 1911 (although the 1916 census records of the western provinces is also available). I likely have to wait until the latter part of 2013 to view the 1921 Canadian census.

I eventually realized, of course, that I had neglected to give enough thought to my wife's family which I also research. Although her Wagner ancestors had immigrated from Germany to western New York state and her second great grandfather, Jacob Wagner, had eventually settled in Berlin, (now Kitchener), Waterloo County, Canada West (now Ontario), I knew that there were numerous collateral branches of her ancestors who remained in the United States.

As an example, I started looking at Floyd John Wagner, my wife's second cousin twice removed. Both Floyd and my wife are descended from Heinrich 'Henry' Wagner and his wife Anna Marie 'Mary' Eckhard. Floyd was born 12 April 1900 in New York state, probably in the city of Buffalo. By the time Floyd was 18 years old he was working as a clerk at a local company and by the time he was 20 years old, he was a chauffeur and mechanic for the U.S. Motor Vehicle Service. In 1930, Floyd can be found in the census records for that year listed as a mechanic for the U.S. Post Office. Floyd served as my 'guinea pig' for delving into the 1940 U.S. census records.

The 1940 U.S. census is not yet indexed but that process is well underway and I expect the indexing to be completed in about six months. However, using the enumeration district from the 1930 U.S. Census along with Stephen Morse's "One-Step" finder tool to obtain the corresponding 1940 enumeration district, I was rather quickly able to locate Floyd in the 1940 U.S. census.

Hmmm, I thought, if there was one person in my genealogy database living in the United States in 1940 maybe there are others to find. Using the new "Who Was There" report in my RootsMagic database and I generated a report of all individuals who were or possibly were living in the United States in 1940. The report is 99 pages long! Oh, my. I didn't see that coming!

I guess I have more work to do with the census records that I didn't need to learn about because there was no one in my family tree to find.

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