Letter from the Editor: May/June 2012

Letter from the Editor: May/June 2012

Making It Count Every once in a while, our nation experiences a transformative event that brings everyone together: The signing of the declaration of independence. The space race. The 1940 census release.   OK, the unveiling of the 1940 census might be a tad more exciting to us genealogy...

Making It Count

Every once in a while, our nation experiences a transformative event that brings everyone together: The signing of the declaration of independence. The space race. The 1940 census release.

 
OK, the unveiling of the 1940 census might be a tad more exciting to us genealogy buffs than to the rest of the population—but can you blame us? A US records release of this magnitude hasn’t occurred for 10 years (since the 1930 census opened to the public in 2002).
 

Still, I think the 1940 census’ arrival truly is special for both genealogists and our country as a whole. Consider:

  • This is the first time the federal government has publicly released a census online—making the records accessible to an entire generation of Americans who’ve never seen a microfilm reel.
  • Many Americans enumerated in 1940 are still alive. For younger adults whose parents, grandparents and other close relatives were counted, this census provides an easy entry point into genealogy. And that could draw many new people into our hobby.
  • Recognizing that potential, genealogy companies and organizations plan to index the records quickly—they’ve been laying the groundwork for months. The 1940 Census Community Project, a web-based volunteer indexing effort, has been referred to as a “national service project.” For me, that called to mind another important census indexing effort undertaken by the very people we’re now looking up on the 1940 population schedules: the WPA-generated Soundex. Seems fitting, doesn’t it?
 
As you’ll see from our special coverage in this issue and online, the 1940 census has galvanized the genealogy community in a way I’ve never seen before. Sure, I suppose this might be a trifle less significant than our break from England or the Apollo missions—but I, for one, am over the moon about it.
 

Allison’s Top 3 Tips from this issue

1. To find your relatives in the 1940 census, identify which enumeration district they lived in.
2. When you can’t get an ancestor’s vital record through the state office, try looking at the county level. Many counties’ records go back earlier than state mandates.

3. Consult oral histories from Ellis Island and other ports for insight into your immigrant ancestors’ experiences.

 
From the May/June 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine 

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