Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Murray City, Utah Prepares For The 1940 US Census

The Census is coming!! The Census is coming!! Only 26 days left before the 1940 US Census images are released to the public for viewing.  Are you ready??

Photo:  Process 1940, US Census Bureau

I don’t know much about the 1940s except what I learned in school, which was mostly centered on the effects of the Great Depression and World War II.  Neither of my parents was born before the 1940s census, but their parents were.  Emerson and Ruth (Volz) Wood and Fred and Elsie (Roberts) Arntz were newly married and raising their young families in Harbor Beach, Michigan in the 1940s.  Neither of my grandfathers served in World War II, and we never really talked about the effects of the Great Depression on them personally in much detail.  Since they have all passed away, I am hoping that the 1940 US Census will give me a better snapshot of their earlier lives that I no longer can ask them about.
I have been enumerated in five censuses myself.  Though I don’t remember much about them, I do know there was a lot of hoopla surrounding each event, to get everyone educated and excited to participate in the process.  So I decided to do some research on my own in my local newspapers, to see how they presented the 1940s census to the population.  I wish Michigan newspapers were available online, but so far I've had very little luck finding a good FREE resource, so for this article I've used the GREAT collection of Utah newspapers gathered by the University of Utah (Go Utes!!)
The University of Utah has an amazing collection of digitized newspapers, holding over 1,000,000 pages of historic Utah newspapers.  The Utah Digital Newspapers (UDN) collection can be found at There are 12 newspapers at the Utah Digital Newspapers Collection that cover the 1940s: Park Record, Vernal Express, Davis County Clipper, Manti Messenger, Times Independent, Eureka Reporter, Morgan County News, Garfield County News, San Juan Record, Piute County News, Murray Eagle, and the Kane County Standard.  There are also eight newspapers that carry editions from various dates in the 1940s, such as: Rich County News, Richfield Reaper, Roosevelt Standard, Millard County Chronicle, Parowan Times, Iron County Record, Topaz Times and the Tooele County Chronicle.
My husband's family have been long time residents of Murray City, Utah.  The Murray Eagle images covers the time period 1927 to 1960.  If you have ancestors who were living in Murray City during this time period, this is a wonderful FREE resource of local history. 
In an effort to get the local populace ready for the 1940s census enumerators, the Murray Eagle ran several articles about various aspects of the census including a historical piece, editorial commentary about various questions, and instructions on how to prepare in advance for the farm schedules. 
Photo: 1940 US Census Part A, US Census Bureau
The first article that I found was written by Elmo Scott Watson and released by the Western Newspaper Union entitled “Uncle Sam Prepares to Count His Children – and How His Family Has Grown Since First Census in 1790!” on December 21, 1939.
The article was well written with a history of how the census came to be, the population predictions of President John Adams and President John Tyler, and a fear among the deeply religious early settlers that the 1790 census would bring about a destruction, similar to the time in the Bible when David numbered Israel and the Lord sent pestilence to smote them.
“Officials of the census bureau regard the 1940 US Census as probably the most important and far reaching since that first one 150 years ago. For this one will be much more than a mere counting of noses.”   In addition to the usual questions of population, industry, and farming and manufacturing production … the census will also focus on the “new social and economic situations which have arisen in the last few years, bringing with them problems that are yet unsolved”.   The 1940 US Census included questions about unemployment and migration from one state to another.  And the health questions were intended to help the government anticipate how many men would be incapacitated for military service.
On February 1, 1940 there was an article on Page 2 entitled “Range of Family” explaining how “family” and “dwelling” would be defined in the 1940 US Census. 
On March 14, 1940 there was an article in the Farm News on Page 7 entitled “U.S. Bureau of Census Requests Cooperation in 1940 Inquiry” informing farmers that they can help increase the speed and accuracy of the Census by filling out a sample farm census schedule created by the US Department of Commerce.
On March 21, 1940 there was an Editorial about two questions objected to by many.  Question 33 asks about income over $50 from sources other than wages or salary.  Question 48 asks if a person has been married more than once.    
By August 1, 1940 the Murray Eagle headlines declared “Census Shows 468 Population Gain. Murray Falls Short of Fifth Largest City By Three Babies  With 5,640 Tally”. Would be interesting to see if we could find out who the next three babies born after April 1st in Murray were? ;o)  Bet their mother's would have been glad to deliver early, especially if they were at that horrible last month waiting stage.

If you are looking for some additional help to get you prepared to research the 1940 Census, be sure to stop by the Legacy Family Tree website.  They hosted a free webinar today with over 1,000 attendees called “Navigating the 1940 US Census”.  Luckily the webinar was recorded, and you can access the recording for free ... but only until March 19, 2012.  So don't procrastinate.
If you are fortunate enough to have someone in your life who remembers the 1940s, be sure to interview them.  The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook by Emily Anne Croom has some wonderful interview questions related to the 1940s and WWII that can help you get started.  You should be able to find her workbook at most public libraries, or purchase your own copy through Amazon

And don't forget, there is still time to register to help index the 1940 US Census.  Just go to the 1940 US Census Community Project and download the indexing software (found under Downloads in the Quick Links section).  
Let the countdown continue ... :)
Love and Aloha,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...