I was excited as anyone when the 1940 census was released. I immediately went to work trying to find my families.
I was a volunteer indexer through FamilySearch.org and I enjoyed that experience immensely. It was great to be part of a worldwide network of people working towards the same goal.
During the period of time before the indexing was complete, I used enumeration districts to find my family members. Some were harder to find than others. To find the enumeration districts I used several basic tools. First were the tools created by Steve Morse and available on the Archives website. Additionally, I kept open maps from Google Earth and Mapquest. And I used city directories when available. Finally, I kept the Wikipedia window open to help check facts. This toolkit, which I also used while indexing, proved to be very significant. It came in handy on more than one occasion.
I had success and failure looking for relatives using the enumeration districts. I quickly located my mother’s family, living at 2010 Olive Street in Kansas City, Missouri. The whole family was listed with the exception of the youngest child who had yet to be born, and my grandfather who at that time was separated from my grandmother and living elsewhere. I tried to find my grandfather using the enumeration district approach, but that turned out to be one of the failures. I could not locate him at all.
I had equally mixed success finding my paternal ancestors. In 1940, my father’s family was in transition. On his father’s side, the Mansons were moving about in Texas, from Milam County, to Ellis County, to Tom Green County, and ultimately to Midland County. While those moves involved the bulk of the family, my grandfather Quentin V. H. Manson, had taken his own path to the Gulf Coast in the late 1930s. But by 1940, he was divorced from my grandmother and lived apart from her and my father. But where? City directories put him in Galveston and Houston at times before and after 1940. But I couldn’t find him in any of those places in 1940 itself. Some of the big cities like Houston are particularly challenging using the the enumeration district approach.
As much fun as that was I of course like many others was thrilled when the indexing project was completed and I could search anywhere by name. Again the first family I sought out through by name search on Ancestry.com was my mother’s family, the Gineses. But I was to be disappointed. Although I had found them through the enumeration district approach, they did not turn up in the name search. You’ve probably guessed why by now: the indexer misspelled their name as “Gimes” instead of “Gines.” So I made the correction on Ancestry.com. I went looking for my other relatives and ancestors as “Gimes.” I found no other person named Gimes. I did find some of my other relatives, but not as many as I had expected. Of course you may recall my 2009 posts which showed the myriad ways that the name Gines has been spelled. So I’ll have to check all of those spellings.
The other interesting thing about my mother’s family was that no informant was identified. This was interesting for a number of reasons not the least of which being that my uncle Perry’s name was listed as “Harry.” That’s not a mistake that any family member would have made. So perhaps the enumerator got the information from a neighbor who didn’t know the family very well.
Since the full index came out, I have made numerous spelling changes on Ancestry.com. I know how tough it was for the indexers having done the job myself, but some of the mis-spellings should’ve been intuitively suspect. I’m not criticizing the entire program, because my little issues are but a tiny tiny subset of the many names that were transcribed. And on the whole it seems to have been an excellent effort. was hoping that the 1940 census would fill-in some gaps in my knowledge and possibly lead to breaking down a couple of 19th-century brick walls.
I will tell you next time the extent to which my hopes were fulfilled.
August 18, 2012 Saturday at 8:10 pm