I was just browsing through the recent issue of NGS Magazine (April – June 2012) received by our library. I happened to catch an article written about the 1940 Census. The article is titled “The 1940 Federal Census”. The authors of the article are Constance Potter and Diane Petro.
The authors noted that we should all look closely in Column 7 of the census image (Name of the Person) for an “X” that is circled. According to the census taker instructions, they were to note who in the family provided the responses to the questions asked in the census by using a circled “X” by the person’s name.
The census taker was also supposed to note in the left hand margin if information for a family was provided by someone who was not a member of that family. So you might see notes in the left-hand margin that might say “Information from John Brown, neighbor” by a particular family unit.
So researchers now can now identify specific individuals and fully blame them for the misinformation they may have provided! Our intense research of that family may actually have discovered the real facts but back in 1940 you can now see clearly the “X” with the circle around it and blame Uncle Joe for not knowing something we should have expected him to know!!
Take a look at my own grandfather’s 1940 census image of the 3 families that lived in his 3 flat in Chicago. The families are all related to my grandfather. It looks like Edwin Gurski (Line 61) clearly had the circled “X” for his family unit. Edward Sanocki (Line 64) clearly had the circled “X” for his family. What is interesting is that I do not see a circled “X” for my grandfather’s family noted for Teofil Kierna (Line 55) and I do not see any note in the margin indicating their information was provided by someone else. So there goes that great system for consistency!!
Here is an image from the 1940 Census showing these markings as they pertain to my grandfather and other family units on the image:
Perhaps you were aware of this notation. Perhaps not. But now you hopefully have the culprit identified as the one that provided information that does not correlate with your own hard-work research in discovering the facts as you know them.
I just wanted to share this tip because I think it is important to be aware of as to who provided the information. This had not been done before. Previously, we were all left with creating our own stories as to wondering who actually provided the information on our ancestors in previous censuses, especially when we knew something was not right. Was it the neighbor? Was it made up by the census taker? Was it a family member who simply wanted to get the census taker out of the house so they gave them made-up information?
Mysteries that will last forever from pre-1940 Censuses!
With the 1940 Census you will now have a better insight and a specific person (maybe) to lay the blame on or to give high praise for providing very accurate information!
You may want to look at the entirety of the article because the authors also provide some deeper insights into many more of the fields of information gathered for the 1940 Census. These insights can really help you better understand what information appears and how to interpret it for accuracy as it applies to your own ancestral research.
I will have this journal for further review over the next week. It should be on our magazine shelves by next Tuesday, May 29, 2012. Look for it and the article at that time.
Schaumburg Township District Library