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I can see my Grandma from here
April 2, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

The U.S. National Archives today released the returns from the 1940 national census, providing an invaluable resource to historians and genealogists. At the moment, you'll need to know the particular address you want to see--the records are not yet searchable by name. A companion project seeks to fix that by enlisting your help in a crowdsourced project to index the census data. However, if you're looking for a New York address, you can use this clever site from the New York Public Library to look someone up in the 1940 phone book. (FYI, the site seems to be running a bit sluggishly under first-day load, so you may need to be patient.)
posted by Horace Rumpole (31 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
The .gov census site is either loading very, very slowly, or not at all. Anyone having any luck getting through to it?
posted by codacorolla at 8:56 AM on April 2, 2012


It's definitely slow, but it loads for me. Pages other than the front page seem to load faster. The actual census images took quite a while, however.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:02 AM on April 2, 2012


Yeah, it's not working at the moment. You can get to the first search page, but the Browse and Search buttons don't do anything.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:19 AM on April 2, 2012


Hmmm...I'm wondering if my grandparents didn't own a phone in 1940 - they don't seem to be listed in the phone book in either of the two boroughs that I think are likely.

Currently trying to see if I can find out who lived in the house I grew up in 36 years before my family moved in. Not sure if the search is going to load, though.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:42 AM on April 2, 2012


Aaaaaand nope...timed out.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:43 AM on April 2, 2012


I was able to download (not view) a map, but I haven't had much luck with anything else. I'm sure it'll calm down in a day or two.

I've been waiting for this for a while now. Thanks, Mr. Rumpole!
posted by bondcliff at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2012


Just found my great-grand parent's address on Sedgwick Avenue in The Bronx from the phone book listing but can't get anything to load on the census.
posted by octothorpe at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2012


Oooh, I have some computers I can dedicate to image processing. Yay, crowd sourcing!
posted by dejah420 at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2012


Oh hello there great uncle Morris on Ocean Parkway!
posted by elizardbits at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2012


I have this idea for a Census-themed Doctor Who where the Daleks say "ENUMERATE!"
posted by exogenous at 10:15 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you think this is bad, wait until this hits Slashdot.
posted by crapmatic at 10:48 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ancestry.com seems to be doing well under the onslaught. Of course, they've only got a few states completely transferred as of yet, so folks may not be pawing through them as much as they could.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:50 AM on April 2, 2012


Mocavo is reporting that NARA has been hit to the tune of 22.5 million hits in 4 hours.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:53 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Massachusetts is missing a few towns on the search list. ??
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 11:03 AM on April 2, 2012


I can get most functions to work, but loading an ACTUAL Census page?!? Nada. I'm not sure what I expected ... after all, this is the Federal Government. The pages will probably load during the next fiscal year, or after the Presidential election.
posted by kuppajava at 11:06 AM on April 2, 2012


Massachusetts is missing a few towns on the search list. ?? Do you know the name of the township (does the Commonwealth have Townships?). I had to do that with at least one place I thought would be tied to a city. Seems in 1940 the place I was looking for was still considered a Township.
posted by kuppajava at 11:08 AM on April 2, 2012


I honestly don't know how people transcribe names so well off those old census records. Often I will search for someone and the record will come up and I can barely even find their line... those census takers didn't have neat handwriting.
posted by smackfu at 11:14 AM on April 2, 2012


(And that's for the private census records, like from Ancestry.)
posted by smackfu at 11:15 AM on April 2, 2012


Nada. I'm not sure what I expected ... after all, this is the Federal Government.

You know, Ron Paul is probably in this census.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:17 AM on April 2, 2012


Not working for me right now. I'll try again tonight or tomorrow.
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on April 2, 2012


I honestly don't know how people transcribe names so well off those old census records. Often I will search for someone and the record will come up and I can barely even find their line... those census takers didn't have neat handwriting.

It depends on the Census and probably the census taker. A lot of the census sheets from 1850 to 1880, I find very beautiful handwriting. Around 1900, it starts to go downhill, but not necessarily across the board.

I'm happy that a census is released, but not that excited since my family history circa 1940 is pretty well established. I suppose I'll hang around for the radio ownership question.
posted by Atreides at 11:32 AM on April 2, 2012


> ... after all, this is the Federal Government.

I dunno, the query I'm loading is hitting Amazon AWS for the data. Blame private enterprise.
posted by scruss at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this!
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:38 PM on April 2, 2012


Nada. I'm not sure what I expected ... after all, this is the Federal Government.

Much better than the old days, where they just said "we have microfilms in DC if you want to see them." And so private services took them up on that offer and scanned them since they're public domain and indexed them and charge more than you'd think for access.
posted by smackfu at 2:34 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canadians with ancestors who worked for the federal government should go hunting for a copy of the Governor General's reports between 1880-1920 or so. All governement employees, listed by name along with their yearly earnings, right down to labourers.

No extant digital copies AFAIK, however.
posted by Decimask at 3:00 PM on April 2, 2012


Found Grandma in Brooklyn... and it was neat to plug the address into Google Maps' street view and see that the brownstone is still standing.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:23 PM on April 2, 2012


Much better than the old days, where they just said "we have microfilms in DC if you want to see them." And so private services took them up on that offer and scanned them since they're public domain and indexed them and charge more than you'd think for access.
posted by smackfu at 2:34 PM on April 2


Actually, I discovered last year that images (and downloadable PDF's) of the Census through 1930 are available at Archive.org. Searchable indexes for the Census through 1930 (and a ton of other stuff) are available at www.FamilySearch.org. All for free.
posted by Califugee at 4:43 PM on April 2, 2012


Amazing that it's still so swamped it's non-functional, even fairly late at night.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:15 PM on April 2, 2012


It's working great now!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:23 AM on April 3, 2012


1940 census data is more fun when you own an old house. Here's to Emil and Selma. She answered the data questions from the census taker and was from Iowa originally. Emil (a Minnesota native) was a meat trimmer in the meat packing industry (worked only 32 hours that week) and apparently liked his women a little older, she was 42 and he was 40. She was doing household work, and not involved in the WPA, not seeking work. They apparently were content with the $820 dollar wage he made with no kids.
posted by jeribus at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I blew my own mind with this thing this afternoon... looked up my house, and discovered that a man named Gaylord Teachworth lived here in 1940 while having the greatest name of all time. A bank guard, Gaylord made slightly less in a year than I spend every month on my mortgage. Not to worry, though, as his rent was $31 a month.

Somehow, Gaylord and his wife had 4 kids living here; my wife and I feel a little crowded with a dog and a cat.

Maaaan, this is fun.
posted by COBRA! at 7:02 PM on April 10, 2012


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