Interest in 1940 U.S. Census online produces gridlock

By Roxanne Saucier, Special to the BDN
Posted April 08, 2012, at 4:45 p.m.

Maybe crash isn’t technically the word, but 26 hours after the National Archives released the 1940 Census for the United States at 9 a.m. Monday, April 2, I still hadn’t seen anything at the “official site,” http://1940census.archives.gov.

I’m sure it will serve us well eventually, but who didn’t see this coming? The site got 37 million hits in eight hours on April 2, and there are still those who wonder if climbing your family tree is a popular hobby.

Here’s the thing. The 1940 Census doesn’t interest only researchers who can recite 12 generations back to the Mayflower. It also fascinates anyone 72 and older, whose name is actually found in the 1940 enumeration; and countless others who may see their parents or grandparents listed for the first or second time on a census.

You made the census, Mama! Joyce (Steeves) Moore, age 9, lived on School Street in Sangerville in 1940. Her parents were Stanley, 35, born in Canada, (English-speaking); and Edith, 34, born in Maine.

I found Sangerville on Ancestry.com, a paid website which is available free on computers at public libraries in Maine. I also heard from a researcher who used MyHeritage.com. The National Archives site seemed to have only a few towns available for Piscataquis County so far.

My dad lived in an Abbot household of four generations, according to Enumeration District 11-1 through Ancestry. The head of household No. 20 was Ione A. Moore, 37; living with Gayland A., 15; Carroll W., 14; Roderick M., 12; and Mary A., 10.

Household No. 21, which was in the same building valued at $1,000; was home to owner and head of household Rena A. Bennett, 58, widowed; and her mother, Mary A. Lord, 81.

All members of my dad’s family in this census were born in Maine. But what about the birthplace of each person’s mother and father — information that helped us so much from the 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses?

Gasp. The census asked that question of only two people on each page of the census, none of them in my immediate Steeves and Moore families.

Possibly the most interesting addition to the 1940 census was how many years of education each person had completed.

For my grandfather Steeves, the answer was 6, for sixth grade. My grandmother Steeves, grandmother Moore, great-grandmother Bennett and great-great-grandmother Lord each had H-4 by her name, meaning she had completed four years of high school.

Abbie Fowler, who lived next door to my Steeves grandparents and was known as Miss Fowler to her kindergarten and first-grade students at Sangerville School, was marked C-2 for two years of college.

Also in 1940, the census-taker asked each working person his or her income for the year. Stanley Steeves, who worked 36 hours as a weaver in the mill the last week of March, earned $575 a year. Edith Steeves, who worked 30 hours that week, earned $275 a year.

Some people did not give divulge that information, such as the doctor who delivered me and my siblings some years later. However, his maid was listed as earning $260.

Another interesting facet of each household was seeing which name had an “x” inside a circle next to it. That indicated the person who had provided the information to the census-taker.

Of my above-named families, those talking to the census-takers were Edith Steeves, Ione Moore and Rena Bennett. It seems as though a lot of women did the talking in 1940.

That was true, as well, in household No. 87 on the “Abbot to Kingsbury Road.” Head of household was Roy G. Brown, 55. Providing the information was his wife, Evelyn, 51, for the family that included sons Thomas G., 21; Anton E., 19; and James F., 14.

Also residing with the Browns were grandchildren Barbara A. Bennett, 8; Joyce and Joan Bennett, 7; and Kathren Bennett, 3. They were my dad’s first cousins, the children of Norma (Brown) Bennett and the late Alvarus “Mike” Bennett.

Next week, we’ll look at the difference between “same place” and “same house” in the 1940 Census.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/08/living/family-ties/interest-in-1940-u-s-census-online-produces-gridlock/ printed on November 27, 2014