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First Look at the 1940 U.S. Census….and What I Was Doing in 2002

I told myself I wasn’t going to play around with the 1940 U.S. census images today. “Wait until later in the week,” I said. “You’ve got other things you need to do today.” But, after seeing colleagues posting their success, I was tempted to take a peek.

I had already prepared by doing the one-step program developed by Stephen P. Morse, PhD and  Joel D. Weintraub, PhD (http://stevemorse.org/census/quiz.php). I had already set client expectations that this could take several days or even a week or two.

If I were going to be efficient, I would set the census searching aside and devote today and tomorrow to other projects. I started off on this track, but caved in after three hours of work this morning. Now I am waiting for my first image to load. It has been about 15 minutes and I have 20 images within the first enumeration districts (E.D.) I need to check 2 or 3 E.D.s for this particular client. Not the most efficient way of searching.

While I was waiting for the first image to load, I tried to think back to 2002 when the 1930 U.S. census was released. I was expecting my first child and I remember I took the day off work and went to my local NARA branch office to look at it on microfilm. I spent the entire day there. I recall searching through the entire city of Baltimore. I had found them in a city directory, so had a general idea of the street name. It took time and patience, but I found them. This success encouraged me to look for others that day. It was thrilling to share my findings with my family.

After about an hour, I gave up trying to bring up the image I needed from NARA. I checked a random page from Rhode Island on Ancestry.com, just so I could see “the real thing.” So I can wait a few days to get the 1940 images I need. I don’t have to drive an hour to the archives and slog through miles of microfilm. Although I suppose microfilm searching would be faster than waiting for images to load, I am sure the archives branch would be packed with people and with a long wait for microfilm machines.

I can wait a little while. How about you?

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April 2, 2012 · 7:23 pm