Thursday, April 19, 2012

After The 1940 Dust Settled...

Like so many other curious researchers, I was waiting for the release of the 1940 US census on April 2, 2012. I had my primary targets lined up:  my four grandparents, who were all recently wed in the 1930's, and my Dad. This is the first time someone so close to me has been enumerated. Now, I can just call him or drive a couple minutes to visit him, but actually seeing him listed in a document like the census has a whole different meaning as an amateur genealogist and not just as a daughter.

I called my Dad just to double-check which address I should try first. "Dad, where did you live when you were four?" I used the Enumeration District (ED) maps on the Archives website to learn the boundaries. Dad's Gardner Street in Joliet, Illinois was a "main drag" and a boundary for several ED's. I guessed right on the second try. There were my grandparents, Dad, and aunt. Everything on their listing is what I expected. Still, seeing them all brought a big smile to my face. I printed the pages before and after, and while he really wasn't all THAT excited like I was, Dad enjoyed looking over the names of his old neighbors.

I had more difficulty locating my maternal grandparents in Lansing, Michigan. My grandmother was of West Prussian descent. Her grandparents and many distant relatives immigrated from West Prussia to Lansing in the 1870's and 1880's. The families all settled in the same small enclave on the southeast side of downtown Lansing. Most worked in the blossoming automotive industry.

I knew exactly where I thought I should start. I found my 3 great-grandparents, and lots of other distant relations, but no grandma and grandpa. I really hoped I could pick the right ED, but because there were so many options, that didn't work. I checked my mom's birth certificate and baptismal records, as she was born at the end of 1940. Nope, they weren't at that address, either. Finally, I located a city directory with an address across town. There they were! Since they wed in 1939, maybe they were really trying to escape the German fold to their own corner of town. Or maybe my grandfather's job with the State of Michigan as a bridge engineer took him closer to downtown.

I have found all four grandparents, and my six living great-grandparents. I have had one supplemental set of questions answered by a great-grandmother (with my great-grandfather's data!). The questions regarding education and rent/mortgage are the most interesting to me on this new census.

I have given the searching a rest over the last week. As was expected (and not!), the rush to download and subsequent crawl of the pages took it's toll.  In due time, I will be back at it.  When my real life lightens up a bit, I will start indexing as well. Until then, enjoy the new 1940's resource!
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
© 2012 Sally Knudsen