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More 1940 Census Tips and Tricks

Happy Friday, and it is a good one here in the land of everything family history!  As of early this morning all of the 1940 images are live! Over 3.8 million images are now available to view. In addition, we have our first two indexes rolled LIVE as well on the site. Now you can search through Nevada and Delaware using a person’s name, not just page through the images.

So who besides me is making an appointment with their eye doctor for tired eyes? Wow, those enumeration district (ED) maps can take a toll. But how fun is it to zero in on the place where your family lived and then find them in those amazing records?  That feeling of satisfaction from the thrill of the hunt is multiplied when we get to learn about our family during that pivotal time in history—between the Great Depression and World War II. As I was reminded in one of our Live Look-up Chats, this census offers a parting glimpse of so many heroes who went off to fight, and ended up dying for our country. For these and many more reasons, it’s so important for us to find our family and preserve their memories. So let’s get to it.

First Up, Finding Addresses on ED Maps without Going Insane

OK, so as I mentioned, my eyes are threatening to leave their sockets unless I find a better way to search these ED maps. One thing I’ve started doing is pretty basic and some of you may already be doing this. I’m pulling up the address on a current map site, like Google maps. I search for the address and note surrounding streets and any landmarks that will help me find the spot on the ED maps.

Once I’ve gotten my bearings in the close up shot, I zoom out to see the wider area. Getting this perspective helps me to figure out which ED map I should use and is very helpful. I can see if the address is to the southeast of the city, or that it’s on the west side of a river, or that a diagonal thoroughfare runs near it, for example.

Even though some of the maps are broken up and span multiple images, you can tell where the tops and edges are and get a fix for which sections of the maps will have the section for the southeast portion of the city, the northwest section, etc.  The more I work with them, the easier it gets.

Next Up, Screenshots, Take Two

After last night’s post (if you missed it, it’s here), I heard from several of you wondering about how to grab a screenshot. There are several ways to grab an image from your screen that you can print or edit with online tools, and while I can’t get into particulars with any one program I’ll touch on some basic options that most of us have available to us through our standard computer accessories.

Commercial Products. There are a number of commercial products available and a quick search for “screenshot software” or screen capture software” should pull up a list of products to review—some free and some are available with a paid license. Most products offer a free trial so you can try them and buy only if you like it. Talk to other genealogists and see what they’re using. Our Facebook page  is a great place to network with other family historians, who are always eager to help and offer advice.

Windows. If you have Windows, you should be able to hit CTL and Print Screen (usually found on the top row of the keyboard above numbers and navigation controls). This will copy what you are seeing on your screen to an invisible clipboard. In your list of programs on the Start menu, look for Accessories and open that folder. Then select Paint. (You could also use a Word or Wordpad document for this purpose.) Open it up and click CTL and V. This will paste the item from that invisible clipboard to your document or image. In Paint you can save it as an image file, or if you’ve pasted into a document, it will save as that document type.

From there you can print your map or insert shapes like arrows or lines that help you delineate enumeration district (ED) boundaries, highlight numbers, mark intersections near your family, or whatever else you’d like to do. If you’re a paper person, highlighters work fantastic. This makes it easy for you to glance back and forth at the map while you’re navigating the census images and zero in even faster on the address you’re looking for.

Mac. OK, for this one I had to call my boss, Jeanie, for advice. I don’t have a Mac, so she’s my go-to girl for this. If you’re a Mac user, look in your applications, click on Utilities, and look for Grab. Then go to Capture and choose from there. You can find more information and other options for grabbing a screen shot here

Happy hunting!

Juliana Smith

Three Days Lost in 1940

Wow, it’s been a busy three days! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a blast exploring he 1940s neighborhoods where my ancestor lived. While it’s really nice to have an index, the good thing about browsing and using enumeration district maps is the opportunity to really get to know the places where they lived. This kind of knowledge can pay big dividends down the road.

As I’ve helped many of you in our daily Live Look-ups on Livestream, I’ve also been able to explore some of your ancestors’ neighborhoods. As I’ve done so, we’ve had some challenges with some searches, so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve found useful.

Print and/or Edit Maps

Sometimes the Enumeration District Maps aren’t the easiest to read. In one case I took a screen shot that I saved as a JPG file, and used my photo editing program to lighten and darken maps with some degree of success.

I’ve also used screen shot editing programs to grab portions of maps and add lines, circles, and arrows where the edges of the enumeration district (ED) are not distinct. This gives me a better picture of what streets are in the area where I’m searching, where I expect the address to fall, and when I’m getting close while I’m browsing census images. Here’s one example I used when I was helping a friend pin down an address.

I used a contemporary map to try to pin down approximately where the address she was looking for would fall and used red lines to highlight the sometimes hard to follow edges of the ED.

In another case, I was helping someone in our Live Look-Up sessions on Livestream (archived versions are here-scroll down past the viewer and click on them) who couldn’t find his great-grandparents’ block enumerated in the ED it was supposed to fall in. I thought I would see if tracing the route he took would help. As it turned, it looks like this enumerator did not complete his appointed route (clearly he wasn’t a mailman in his other job). It looks like several blocks were not completed.

Browsing Images on

I’m loving the new image viewer and all the things that you can do with it. While I always go through looking for names when I’m browsing (you may find an enumerator who forgot to note when he turned onto a new street), there are times when I want to just browse quickly, looking for a particular street. Instead of getting a neckache trying to read everything sideways, I can rotate the image by clicking on the green Actions button, then selecting Image Controls top open up those options.

Although I’ve been very impressed with the quality of the images, there have been times when I’ve been less than impressed with the handwriting. TheInvert colorsflips the colors so you’re reading white writing on a black background and it’s been helpful in deciphering some words. You can also adjust he contrast with these tools.

Hope this has been helpful and that you’re having as much fun as I am. If you have any questions you’d like me to address here, you can email me at  

I hope you’ll also join us tomorrow for another Live Look-up session at 1 pm ET here on Livestream. Anne Mitchell and myself will be in the Chat Room helping as many of you as we can, and Crista Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist, will be sharing some of her favorite tips in the video.

Happy Searching!


1940 Census for Dad, check. Memories flowing, check.

While we were sleeping, wonderful things were happening behind the scenes at I was thrilled to wake up this morning to find Ohio posted. Before I even had my morning cup of coffee, I was diving in to find my dad’s first appearance in the census. 

I was not disappointed. As my eyes rested on this record that has been hidden from view for 72 years, it was exciting to see the whole family. When I called my dad to talk, as I had hoped, I learned some new things. You’d think that with two genealogists in the family, we would know everything there is to know about my grandparents. Nope. I had no idea until we talked, that it was his job with a paper company that got him deferred from service in World War II. They made boxes for the military, and they considered it essential to the war effort.  Why did I never think to ask about that?

We were also trying to narrow down when Grandpa stopped working for that paper company so that he and Grandma could start up their own company. Reviewing the records I already had gave us a clue in that my grandmother applied for Social Security in December 1946. She had worked prior to their getting married, but since Social Security wasn’t around back then, she hadn’t applied. Then they started a family and she didn’t work until the formed the company.  New items to add to my family timeline. I love it.

That’s the great thing about the 1940 census. I’ve seen a few people post on blogs and Facebook that they’re waiting until it’s all done and indexed before they dive in and start searching. Not me. That chat with my dad made my day, and now I have some new details to add to our family history.  

Now I can’t wait to find his grandfather. I wonder what memories that record will stir.

DC and Nevada are Complete—Indiana and Other States Moving Quickly

Wow, states are loading quickly, with Washington, DC, and Nevada now complete. My home state of Indiana has 55 counties represented (of 92), and I’ve already identified who was living in my old house and quickly found my brother-in-law’s family in Jasper County. Whoohoo! We are off and running.

I think it’s only appropriate that on a day that’s like Christmas for family historians, we post the census image showing radio personality and the famous author of A Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd with his family in Hammond, Indiana.

What have you found so far? You can post your discoveries, memories, and photos to our 1940s interactive map.

Finding Daddy in the 1940 Census

Robert, Judy, and James Szucs, with John Mekalski (and John Szucs, Jr. in the doorway), c. 1942

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. As I write this we’re 28 hours from the release of the 1940 census.  Yes, we’re measuring it in hours now.  This is the first census that I’ll be able to see that includes my dad. He was a young boy in 1940 and I’ll find him, his brother and sister, and my grandparents living in Cleveland, Ohio.

He’s told me a lot of stories about when his early years—how during the war years, his family would follow what was going on in Europe with maps, how he got the scar on his arm running from a loose dog, memories of his grandparents, and so much more. The 1940 census will help me to build on the stories he told me, and those my grandma told me—how they were very poor when they first got married and had a difficult time during the Great Depression and how tough it was with three young children at that time.  

Were they still feeling the effects in 1940? I know that by 1940, they had bought a house, and I have the address where I expect to find them. The census will tell me how much that house was worth and who their neighbors were.

Was Grandpa working at that time? Was he unemployed at any time in 1939? How much did he earn? I’ll learn that as well.

Even more than the details on the form, sharing this record with my dad is what I’m looking forward to most. Who knows what new stories he’ll be reminded of and can share with me?

Why is the clock moving so slowly?

Juliana Smith, employee since 1998

Getting Ready for 1940

It’s getting closer. Only 25 more days until the 1940 census is released. So I’m busily trying to update my family tree, adding every address I know of to the ancestors who were alive in 1940. I’m feeling quite organized actually. I created a report using Family Tree Maker that lists family members who were alive in 1940.

The report’s really pretty simple to create. Under the Publish tab in Family Tree Maker (I’m using 2012, but these steps should still work in the most recent versions), click on Person Reports in the left panel and then select the Index of Individuals Report  

On the right side of the page, click on the button that says Individuals to Include.


Then from the dialog box that pops up Filter in anyone born before 1 Apr 1940. Then Filter out anyone who died before 1 Apr 1940.  This gives me a list of people who were alive on the census date.


You may need to tweak your list, if for example, you have family who was living outside the U.S. at that time, or for people that snuck in because maybe you don’t have a death date for them, but that’s simple enough too. Just select those individuals on the report side (right) and click on Exclude.

Once you’ve got your list created, click on the save icon in the upper right corner. (It’s the last icon under the green bar that says Index of Individual Report Options.) Then just name your report and you can print it out.


I’m using mine as a check list and am gathering addresses on the people I need to find. So I’m anxious to hear your ideas. How are you preparing for the big day?