Who Will You Be Looking For First In The 1940 Census?

The 1940 census is the first my Dad was included in. He was born in a house on the street my parents still live on,  in the house next door to the one in which I grew up. The city of Attleboro, Massachusetts, was a town in 1940 with a population of 22,071 (Thanks to Joel Weintraub for that information!), and on April 2, 2012, my plan is to pour myself a cup (or three) of coffee and scroll through page after page of Attleboro’s census returns until I find him. Thanks to Steve Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder, I already know which enumeration districts to check first. I grew up hearing stories of the neighbors, so I’ll be looking for them as well. And cousins over on Read Street, and Thurber Ave.

The great aunts in nearby Pawtucket, Rhode Island, will be a bit harder to find, although knowing their address will help once I find the right enumeration district. It’s locating my elusive Great Grandfather Joseph that will be the challenge, and (ever the optimist) the thrill… By 1940, he’d already, quite mysteriously, abandoned his family and left for parts unknown. It would be his last census, as two years later he passed away and was interred in what would later become the family burial plot. While others in the family knew of his whereabouts and activities in the last decade of his life, they took that knowledge to their graves, alongside him in the family plot. Realistically, there’s little chance of locating Joseph until an online index becomes available, but I’ll still be keeping an eye out as I scroll through images in the early days of the census’s release 🙂

Who will you be looking for first?

ESGR is Participating in the 1940 Census Community Indexing Project

The Erie Society for Genealogical Research is now registered as a participant in the community index project, and there are a couple training videos here which will help you if you haven’t indexed before or need help setting up an individual account.

There is a lot of helpful information on the 1940 Census website, or follow the steps below.

Getting Started is Easy:

Download and install the free software program for indexing.

Register as an indexing volunteer and at the group prompt, select ESGR from the list of participating societies. By doing so, you will identify yourself as a member of our society, and the ESGR will earn credit for whatever you index.

If you had previously registered for an indexing account and now wish to associate it with ESGR’s project, let me know and I will help you make that change.

The release of the census is around the corner but, in the meantime, feel free to download the 1940 census simulation batch, or download and practise using a batch in the live record queue.

What About An Indexing Party?

The first week of April will be insanely busy for me, but after that I was thinking it might be fun to get a few ESGR members together, at an Internet-friendly coffee shop perhaps, and do  some indexing while sipping a cup of coffee (or three) and enjoying a nice chat!  Comment here or email me privately if you think you might be interested and I’ll suggest some dates and times.

Thanks so much for volunteering to help!

ESGR Keystone Kuzzins Database

If you’re not already a member of the Erie Society of Genealogical Society, you may not be aware that they have been been publishing a bulletin, quarterly, for the last 30 years. Aside from Society news, the bulletin has published a wealth of index information and original records found in the Society’s holdings or extracted from materials available at the Erie County Historical Society and the Erie Public Library’s Heritage Room.

An index of volume’s 1-25 is available on the ESGR website here, and if you cannot pay a visit personally to the history center on State Street or the Heritage Room at the library, where copies of the complete set of Keystone Kuzzins are available, the society offers a search and copy service for a small fee.

Some of the items included in the index are

  • extracts from a variety of 18th & 19th century Erie County family bibles
  • listings from cemeteries with Revolutionary War veterans
  • transcripts of detailed death registers printed in early Erie City Directories
  • extracts of articles from early area newspapers
  • historical articles such as a story on Erie Co. post offices in 1840
  • marriage records from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church 1828-1849
  • Civil War Navy enlistments 30 August 1862
  • Property Assessment lists 1800-1803 for Northwest Pennsylvania
I don’t believe any of this information is currently available online. Take a look at the index for other treasures you might find there!

Oldest Surviving Marriage Record at Erie County Courthouse…

…is older than you might think.

County courts in Pennsylvania began recording marriages in October 1885, and the earliest entry in the index of Marriage Book 1 is dated 1 October 1885. However, that is not the oldest marriage in the courthouse’s files. Marriage Books 1—135, covering the period of 1 October 1885 through 25 May 1951, have been microfilmed and those microfilms have been digitized.

The courthouse’s database of digitized images  of the marriage book microfilms take viewers to what the database considers the first record of roll 1—a marriage which took place on 1 October 1885; however, if one manually scrolls back to the very beginning of that roll, there is a second record designated #1—a marriage between Koscinsko Bassett and Fanny Bromley, which took place at Concord Station on 17 February 1861. The image is of a loose sheet, which the filmers may have found tucked inside one of the registers and opted to place it at the start of the roll, before the records in the index.This lone surviving record, from the very brief period in the 1860s when record keeping was mandated, bears no resemblance to the record of the 1880s. It is in the form of a letter:


Erie Researchers Are Counting Down The Days To The 1940 Census

Genealogists everywhere are counting down the days to April 2nd, the day the 1940 U.S. census is officially unveiled to the public on http://www.archives.com. The Sixteenth Census of the United States was taken on 1 April 1940, and has been sealed by Federal statute for the last 72 years to protect privacy. The National Archives and Records Administration, owner of the records, will provide public access, free of charge at NARA facilities nationwide beginning on April 2nd, and has made arrangements with Archives.com to release the images online the same day.

Archives.com has agreed to provide the public with free access to the images, however it will be some time before any indexes or official finding aids are available to facilitate searching the records. In the meantime, Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub, over at the One Step website, have been hard at work creating tools to aid researchers in navigating the un–indexed records, including their 1940 census tutorial at http://stevemorse.org/census/quiz.php. Steve and Joel suggest to all researchers that they begin with the tutorial quiz, which is a set of interactive questions and research hints, links, etc. Steve uses that tutorial to show 4 interesting examples of the power of the 1940 tools available to researchers. They also provide a guide called “Getting Ready for the 1940 Census,” containing hints on how to prepare an efficient research plan before the “big day,” available at http://stevemorse.org/census/1940census.htm

Erie researchers will find Steve and Joel’s online tool for “Determining the Enumeration District of Large Cities” especially useful, as Erie is one of the cities for which they’ve created a street index and ED converter using the 1930 census. So if you suspect your ancestors were living at the same address in 1940, check out that tool at http://stevemorse.org/census/index.html

We are also fortunate that Blasco Library clerk Debbi Lyon has been hard at work putting together her own 1940 census finding aid for patrons of the Heritage Room. She is assembling a binder containing lists of enumeration districts (EDs)for Erie County. The section on Erie City will include city block detail. Debbi is also creating street maps which are color coded by ED. The maps are based on a 1942 city council map of the city, which is particularly helpful because it includes ranges of address numbers on the various city blocks. Library patrons will be able to look up their ancestor’s addresses in the library’s copy of the 1940 Erie City Directory, and then use Debbi’s finding aid to locate the district in which that ancestor would have been enumerated in 1940. Thank you Debbi!.

For more information on the release of the 1940 census, and for an explanation of the questions which were asked that year, check out NARA’s website at http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/index.html

April 2, 2012, is going to be a busy day for genealogists all over the world. For many of us, it is the first census in which we will find our own names, or those of our parents. The potential for a genealogical windfall is great, and it is never too early to make a plan!!

ESGR 40th Anniversary Celebration

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Erie Society for Genealogical Research is hosting a special morning event on April 21, 2012, at the H.O. Hirt Auditorium at the Erie County Public Library: 160 East Front Street, Erie PA,—9:00 A.M. to Noon.

The speaker is Mr. George Geutsch, Civil War historian, and his topic will be    “Erie County in the Civil War.”

This event is open to the public and free – no reservation required.

New Access to PA Birth & Death Records

Great news for Pennsylvania researchers! Effective February 15, 2012, PA birth records older than 105 years and death records older than 50 years, are available for viewing at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg. The recording of births and deaths has only been mandated in PA since 1906, so this year’s accessible records include births which took place in 1906 and deaths 1906–1961.

Researchers can obtain an uncertified copy of a birth or death for $3.00, at PA Dept. of Health’s website at http://www.health.state.pa.us/  To find the PA State File No. needed to locate a birth or death, see instructions here: