Are you caught up in all the excitement about the release of the 1940 US Census after seventy-two years? Are you getting a little frustrated with not being able to locate your ancestor? It came as a shock to many on April 2nd when the census came out without an index or any way to search an ancestor by name.
No one had access to the census before that day to create an index. Perhaps a few simple tips will help you locate the person you are researching:
1. It helps if someone in the family can tell you the street where your ancestor and his or her family group was living. You then can follow the first steps at archives.gov entitled, “Do you know the location where the person lived?”
Click the “Start Your Search” button and put in the state, county, city, and street. Browse through the results to determine the enumeration district that corresponds. Once you find the enumeration district, click on “Census Schedules” and search the census images for the correct enumeration district. Be prepared to search any number of images to locate your person.
2. What if you have no idea where your person was living? See if you can locate them on the 1930 US Census to see where they were living. Enumeration districts did not stay the same, but you can search by the enumeration district in 1930 at archives.gov and have that enumeration district converted to the correct one for 1940. Then you can search using the correct enumeration district.
3. What if you cannot find them on the 1930 census? Try to locate them on a city directory. The easiest way to determine if a city directory exists is to contact the local library in the county you think the person was living to ask if they have directories between 1930 and 1940. You can find city directories located downtown Columbia in the Walker Local History Room of the Richland County Library, Main Branch.
Sometimes you may find ancestors lived in the same house or same general area as their descendants. This is true of many areas in Columbia and surrounding Richland County. You will not likely find a city directory for a rural area. Use the US Public Records Index at Ancestry.com or WhitePages.com to see if you can find any people with the same surnames if you do not have anyone to ask. Locate the enumeration districts of the streets where the people with matching surnames live.
It may be quite interesting to study the residents living within the same enumeration distirct in 1940 to see if you can make any connections between them and people living in these areas today. Columbia has residents within the city who have lived in the same homes for generations.
4. More ways to determine locality: Get to know other resources that may help determine the locality of your person. A few are:
- Death certificates
- Funeral homes
- School records
Hopefully these tips will help you. Please see About the 1940 Census to find more resources to help you through your challenges. Also see the video above, Finding Your Family in 1940.