New York was the most populous state in 1940 with over 13 million residents. It’s not surprising it has taken longer than some other states to be made searchable in the 1940 Federal Census. Considering it’s importance, it’s also not surprising that it has been indexed early in the process compared to some other states.
Ancestry.com has just made their index for New York available online, after previously only having Delaware, Maine, Nevada and the District of Columbia available. None of the previous states had more than a million residents in 1940 (Nevada had just 110,247 residents), so the jump to New York is actually quite a large one, and certainly a very important one for Jewish researchers.
In 1940 there were nearly 5 million Jews in the US (a much higher percentage, 3.7%, of the US population than currently), and New York was home to more than 2 million of them. In fact, over 90% of those Jews lived in just New York City. Statistically speaking, if you had Jewish relatives in the US in 1940, chances are some of them were living in New York.
As there were many Jewish refugees streaming into the US in 1940, keep in mind that your family would have to have been living in the US at midnight at the beginning of April 1, 1940 in order to be recorded in the census. My grandfather actually arrived in the US by ship on April 1, 1940 and thus should not have been recorded (and as far as I can tell was not) because he arrived some hours after the midnight cut-off for being recorded in the census. The census wasn’t recorded all on April 1, 1940, but rather one of the questions asked by the enumerators was where you were living at midnight at the beginning of April 1, and if you were not living in the US then, then you were not recorded. This is true also of children born on April 1 – they were not recorded (or at least should not have been according to the rules).
Of my relatives that were already living in New York when the census was done, I’ve noticed that their names were transcribed wrong. There are always going to be transcription errors in such a large project, but I wonder if this is a result of Ancestry.com’s rumored use of transcribers in China to do all the work. It should be interesting to see how well the 1940 US Census Community Project does their transcriptions, and if the quality will be higher than the Ancestry.com transcriptions. With over 100,000 volunteers, redundant transcribing and an arbitration process, it certainly seems the community project has an advantage, but we’ll have to see when the databases are completed. Right now the only state that overlaps the two efforts is Delaware, so perhaps if someone had relatives in Delaware in 1940, they could comment on the quality of the two transcription efforts.
The good news is that even with the transcription errors, Ancestry.com still found my relatives due to their soundex search capabilities. If you know your relatives were living in New York on April 1, 1940 and can’t find them, however, try varying your search a bit and maybe that will help. I do strongly recommend that when you see transcription errors, you add a correction to the record. If you add the correct spelling, then future searchers will be sure to find the record. To correct a transcription, click on the ‘View/Add Alternate Info’ link in the Page Tools box on the left side of the record page.
For those trying to figure out where their relatives came from in Europe, the 1940 Census has a great addition to previous censuses, in that it asks where they lived in 1935. Both the city and country are listed, so if your relative moved to the US between 1935 and 1940 then this should show where they were living before they moved to the US.
States fully indexed, by company:
Ancestry.com: Delaware, Maine, Nevada, New York, District of Columbia (see status of other states – shows Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia coming soon)
- Community Project (search on FindMyPast.com): Delaware, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Virginia, and New Hampshire – and partial indexes of other states (see status of other states on FamilySearch)
MyHeritage.com: Rhode Island and parts of New York
For those interested in genealogy, the past few years has been great for a number of reasons. The large genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have grown by leaps and bounds. Ancestry.com just recently announced passing 10 Billion records on their site. FamilySearch volunteers index millions of new names every month, in many languages and from many countries across the globe. Many smaller niche sites have also popped up, and the Internet as a whole as connected people across the globe in way never before possible.
The 1940 Census, released less than two months ago is now over 40% indexed and whereas earlier censuses took years to complete and were usually available first on for-pay sites, the 1940 Census will be finished in a few short months and will be available for free from the start. Sites working on the 1940 census, as mentioned in my earlier post on the subject, including the 1940 Census Community Project, FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.
In the US, there have been three seasons of the genealogy-focused TV show Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC, and PBS also has a series called Finding Your Roots (with Henry Louis Gates Jr.). In the UK Who Do You Think You Are? is already in its eigth series, and the show has other versions around the globe, including in Israel (Mi Ata Hoshev She’ata).
Last night an episode of Finding Your Roots aired featuring Linda Chavez. Chavez is probably most famous as almost being the first Hispanic woman to serve as US Labor Secretary under George W. Bush, before she withdrew her nomination. More recently she’s a syndicated columnist and the Chairman of Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank that deals with issues of race and ethnicity in the public arena.
Linda Chavez’s family has lived in the New Mexico area for hundreds of years, and was always Catholic as far as she knew. A simple question she asked about a funny habit her grandmother had where she turned a statue towards the wall led her to discovering her family included conversos, or Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism in 15th and 16th century Spain. Many conversos fled to the new world, ending up in Mexico and the nearby US states, including New Mexico. Albuquerque, the capital of New Mexico, even has a page on the city’s web site explaining conversos and their history in the city.
There is even evidence that Chistopher Columbus himself, who sailed on behalf of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the same monarchs that forced Jews to convert, and in the same year that the inquisition began, was from a Jewish family that secretly converted. See this CNN article, Was Christopher Columbus secretly a Jew?, written by Charles Garcia.
The topic of conversos living in the American Southwest was also covered in detail in Jeff Wheelright’s recent book The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA. The book discusses, among other topics, how families in isolated communities in Colorado and New Mexico discovered their likely Jewish ancestry through the inheritance of a cancer gene that is most common among Jews.
As I’ve been writing this post, the full show was just posted on PBS’ website, and I’ve embedded it below if you’re interested in watching the show.
In addition, for those interested, Linda Chavez also wrote about her experience in researching her family history as part of the show in a Boston Herald article titled Nourishing our ‘Roots’.
|1940 US Census Page from Durham, Maine
Above is a census page from the 1940 US Census. Officially the images are not supposed to be released until 9am Eastern (six hours from now) by the US NAtional Archives, so I’m not sure how this is possible. It would seem the National Archives has been sharing the images early to allow companies to get them up faster. The above image is from Ancestry.com’s site, which somehow has a small number of images from DC, Maine and Nevada up already.
The 1940 US Census is being released today. The official launch is at 9:00am Eastern Time. There will be a live webcast before the launch at 8:30am. If you can get through, the official site for the census is http://1940census.archives.gov/.
Since I wrote about it last time, genealogy company MyHeritage has announced that they will also be indexing the 1940 Census images and providing free access online. They join Ancestry.com and the Archives.com/FamilySearch.org/FindMyPast.com consortium (The US Census Community Project) in indexing the census.
So now all the 1940 census record sites you should know about are:
The official National Archives site: http://1940census.archives.gov/
The US Census Community Project: https://the1940census.com/
Ancestry.com’s 1940 Census: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2442
and of course, Stephen Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder.
One interesting thing about the 1940 census is that is was the first census to have a census time, not just a census day. In other words, in the past the census was recorded based on what the state of the population was on April 1, but in 1940 the census enumerators were instructed to base their information on midnight, April 1, so if lets say a baby was born on April 1, 1940, they won’t show up in the census (since they were not born by midnight). In a strange twist of fate, I have another interesting example in my family – my great-grandmother, grandfather and great-uncle all arrived in the US by ship on April 1, 1940. If the enumerators followed the rules, they shouldn’t be in the 1940 census. I’ll have to wait until the images for New York are up to find out, however. Another great-uncle should, however, be in the records as he arrived earlier. Any strange stories in your family connected to the 1940 Census?