When I noticed last night that Ancestry.com had posted 1940 US census records for Indiana, I decided to look for relatives there even though I hadn’t done my enumeration district (ED) homework for them. I did know where these particular relatives lived.
I started with Ancestry.com’s collection of 1940 enumeration district maps.
In this collection, if you search, you’ll get the ED descriptions (listing boundaries of the ED, or areas covered), which are linked to maps. Enter the city, county and state for the location, and a word, such as a street name, that might appear in the description.
If you browse, you go straight to the maps (annoyingly, it doesn’t seem easy to go from the map to the accompanying description—this is done much more easily on the National Archives 1940 census website).
I decided to browse. I chose the state and county, and selected “other places” for the city.
This ED map has four pages, and it was easy to find Fairland on the first page.
I wasn’t sure which number on the map was the ED I needed, so I opened a new window to search Ancestry.com’ 1940 census records. (Wouldn’t it be SO COOL if the ED maps were linked to the census collection? But they’re not, so you’ll wan to have the map available to refer back to if you need it.)
Under Browse This Collection, I chose Indiana, Shelby County, and since Fairland wasn’t listed under Populated Place, I picked Brandywine, the township it’s in. 73-10 popped up as the ED, which looks right from the ED map.
I clicked on 73-10 and the first page of records from that ED appeared. I flipped through the pages using the arrows above the record (you also could type in a number to jump ahead several pages).
Tip: If you know the street name where your family lived, check the left edge of the page. Enumerators wrote street names here, so you can see if you’re on the right track or skip to the page(s) with the street you need.
Except my family wasn’t in these records.
Back on the ED map, I roughly traced the farm’s location. It’s a little north of Fairland, near where Van Buren is marked on the map.
Now back in the 1940 census collection, I clicked on Brandywine in the “breadcrumb trail” at the top of the page and switched to Van Buren township.
More clicking through pages—and I found them! My great-uncle was one of the two people per page to answer the supplemental questions. (Learn more about the 1940 census questions here.)
That was fairly easy, since the family lived in a small town. Trying to find my Cincinnati ancestors without an ED was a different story. I had no problem finding where they lived (circled) on an ED map:
But what’s the ED number? The map has several faded numbers on it. I tried browsing records from EDs 91-11, 91-12, among others, but none were for this area. Searching the ED descriptions wasn’t helpful, either. It would’ve been a lot faster to use the One-Step 1940 ED Finder before beginning.
On the plus side, I did unintentionally find my grandfather who wasn’t from Cincinnati! I noticed the YMCA was in one of the EDs I was searching, and remembered a story from when I was little about my grandfather staying there (we talked about it whenever we heard the “YMCA” song). But I didn’t know when. Well, it just happened to be in 1940. Once I find my grandmother, maybe I can figure out where a farm girl from Indiana met a guy from Texas and Cleveland.