It only happens once a decade. Seventy-two years after the 1940 US Census was recorded, it is being released to the public. Unlike previous years where it was released on microfilm and took a long time to digitize and then index, this time the census is being released fully digitized. You should be able to see census pages on day 1 (April 2), although no index exists so you will not be able to search by name or address. The work on such an index will only start on April 2, 2012 when the files become available.
It is unlikely that a full index will be completed by either group before at least six months from now, and probably longer, but there is a way to find the enumeration district (ED) for your relative which is the neighborhood that the census enumerator recorded.
Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub have collaborated to create a number of useful tools that help you figure out which enumeration district you should be looking for, and when the images are released you will be able to locate which images are from the enumeration district you are looking for. To get started with these tools, use the quiz page on Stephen Morse’s site. If your relatives were already living in the US in 1930 and didn’t move by 1940, you should try to find their census records from 1930 which will help in figuring out the correct ED in 1940.
Be sure to go to Stephen Morse’s site before April 2, as it will likely be difficult to reach on April 2 and for some time afterwards. Find the EDs of all your relatives who lived in the US in 1940 now, and then on April 2 you will be able to go directly to the census images and find your relatives using the EDs you already found.
[Note that the feature described in this article has subsequently been removed by Facebook.]
I just ran across an interesting Facebook feature that is fairly helpful for genealogy. I don’t know if this has been around a long time, or if this is something they recently introduced.
Simply, if you go to facebook.com/family you can search all Facebook profiles by surname. Not only that, but the search is created using an easy to remember web address, so you can share a search result page. For example, searching for the surname Zylberman would send you to the page:
which is the first page of search results for the surname Zylberman. Similarly, if you changed the 1 to a 3 at the end of the web address, you would be taken to the third page of results. Of course, these search result pages will change as new accounts are created, or old accounts are deleted, etc. so sending a result page might show the names you want to show someone in the short term, but may not show the same names later.
In addition to searching in English, you can search in other character sets, such as Hebrew:
There are actually more Zylbermans listed in Hebrew than in English, but that’s likely because there are less alternate spellings in Hebrew. For the same name in Hebrew, it could be Zylberman, Zilberman, Zylbermann, Zilbermann, Sylberman, Silberman or Silbermann in English (only the variation Sylbermann does not show up on Facebook).
You can also browse surnames which is interesting. One thing you can see is how many surnames are fake on Facebook. Besides that you can see lots of variations of surnames you may not have thought to search. Like in searching, you can also browse in other character sets. When browsing, Hebrew started on page 14893 of the ‘Other’ character set listings when I tried to find it, which you can jump to by going to this page:
It may or may not be where Hebrew names start when you read this, but it’s probably not too far off if you’re reading this post not long after it was written. I could be mistaken, but it looks like Hebrew follows Armenian and is followed by maybe Farsi? When I searched, Hebrew names ended on page 17611, which means there are currently over 2700 pages of Hebrew names, or with 96 names shown per page, over a quarter of a million surnames in Hebrew on Facebook. I suppose its possible some of those names are actually in Yiddish and not Hebrew, but presumably the majority of them are Israeli users who have listed their names in Hebrew.
What if you want to search for names in Hebrew (or Yiddish) and don’t know enough Hebrew to spell the name in Hebrew, or have a Hebrew keyboard to type it out? Try using Stephen Morse’s Transliterating English to Hebrew in One Step web page, where you can type the name in English, and receive the text in Hebrew. There are slight differences in the transliteration in some cases if you choose onto the options: Sephardic, Ashkenazi or Yiddish. In the case of Zylberman, both Sephardic and Ashkenazi options return the same result (the same spelling I guessed above). Yiddish is less likely to be useful (and in this case no search results were found using the Yiddish tranliteration) for the simple reason that anyone who uses a Yiddish spelling for their name (as opposed to English or Hebrew) is not very likely to be on Facebook altogether. Once you get the text in Hebrew letters, you can copy that text and paste it into the Facebook search box.
So there you go, a super-easy way to search and browse surnames on Facebook, even using foreign alphabets.
It might seem strange that you could have an address for a relative, but not their name. It’s not as strange as you think. Addresses require a level of accuracy that names historically have not had.
For example, I know that my gg-grandparents lived in New York under my gg-grandmother’s surname and not my gg-grandfather’s surname. That has caused no end to problems in tracking down evidence that they lived in New York at all during the years I know they lived there around the turn of the last century. The fact that they lived under my gg-gradmother’s surname indicates perhaps that there were other reasons not to list their real name. Perhaps they did not arrive legally in the country. I don’t know the answer to that question yet. I’ve tried without success to find reference to them in the censuses that happened while they lived in New York, but have never found them under either surname. Searching by name on the commercial databases like Ancestry.com works very well these days, so if they were in the census records under either name I should be able to find them, yet I haven’t found them yet. It could be that they used even another name, that their name was transcribed incorrectly, or that they’re just not in the census records.
This brings up what used to be the way people searched census records, before they were indexed by name. You would find where your ancestor lived, then based on the address figure out the enumeration district that address would be in, then go through all the pages of the census for that enumeration district until you found the address, and then look for your relatives.
Recently I found a document that listed my gg-grandfather’s address in 1902 in New York. Now, of course he could have moved there just before listing that address, but it was sufficiently close to 1900 for me to look into that address during the 1900 US Federal Census.
So how do you go about doing that? First, you need to figure out the enumeration district in 1900 for the address. In this case the address is 60 Cannon St. in Manhattan. This address doesn’t even exist today, as the streets downtown in New York have changed, but you can get around that fact by looking at old maps of the city.
For New York luckily there is a street atlas from 1899 that has been put online by the New York Public Library. If you go to the link, you’ll see thumbnails of the pages in the atlas. You can’t search the atlas by street name, but there is an index page that will tell you the page number to look for:
If you click on the index page and zoom in, you can find Cannon St. and see which pages it shows up on:
As you can see, numbers 2-104 (even) and 1-105 (odd) are on page 15. Now actually figuring out which thumbnail is page 15 isn’t so easy, but if you search for ’15’ it will come up as one of the options and a little trial-and-error will get you to the correct page:
Unfortunately the zoom function for this particular site is really not so easy to use. It makes you look at a very small section of the page, and move around by bumping the view left, right, up or down a bit. However, once you zoom in on Cannon St. you can look for #60:
As I mentioned, the zoom function doesn’t work so well so you need to look at what you can identify easy, such as the big 328 for the block, and then zoom out so you can see the cross streets:
Now we know that the cross-streets are Rivington (above the block) and Delancey (below the block). Why is that important? Because the next step is to figure out the enumeration district, and those cross-streets will help.
As you can see in the image, I’ve selected 1900 at the top, then New York for the state and Manhattan for the city. I’ve then added the three streets from the block. If I had just entered Cannon St., the list of districted would have been very long. By adding three streets it should come down to one or two districts. In this case as you can see it has determined two districts, 288 and 291. Why are there two districts for one block? The reason is easy to figure out – Cannon St. on that block must have been the border between two districts. In one district we should find odd number addresses, and in the other we should find even number addresses.
So where do we go to look for the census images for these districts? There are a few options, but I’m going to show how to do it on Ancestry.com which is what I use for census images.
Ancestry.com allows you to search by name, but as I described that didn’t help me in this case. If you’ve used Ancestry.com to look at census images, you may not have noticed that it also allows you to browse by enumeration district:
In the above image I’ve already chosen the 1900 census to search exclusively. On the left side is the search interface that most people use, but on the right side (in the red box I’ve added) is a panel that allows you to browse by enumeration district. You can see I’ve selected New York for the state, New York for the County and Manhattan for the township. It then lists all of the enumeration districts, and I can select which one to view.
If you were to select enumeration district 288 first, and scan through the pages to find Cannon St., you would notice that all the addresses are odd numbers. That fits with my guess on the street being the border of an enumeration district. If you skip over to enumeration district 291, you will see that the numbers are all even. Oddly there are a few street numbers from Cannon St. at the beginning of the census file, then it jumps to another street, and then back to Cannon St. later.
Up until now I’ve been showing you how to take an address and find the census records for that address. The second lesson I want to teach here at this point is to keep your records organized an to always refer to your notes before jumping into a research project like this. If I had done so I would have noticed that I have another document from 1901 (a Declaration of Intent to Naturalize) that lists a different address. In fact the 1903 Petition was also in an entirely different address, so three addresses in three years. I guess they moved around a lot. If I had not jumped into the research before looking at what other documents I had, I would have saved a lot of time. It still makes for a good example for this blog, however, so I hope it was helpful.
To end the post I should add that the address from 1901 was on the other side of the same block (i.e. the next street over) on the same map page I found for Cannon St., and the address showed up in enumeration district 288, the same one that had the odd street numbers for Cannon St. (this address was even numbered) and unfortunately also came up empty. Considering they lived at different addresses in 1901, 1902 and 1903, I guess it’s not too surprising that they lived someplace else in 1900 as well.
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