Monday, July 11, 2011

Release of 1940 Census

1940 Census

For many genealogists, the countdown to access the 1940 Census has already begun.

The official date for the 1940 Census was April 1st, but since that day will fall on a Sunday in 2012, it is unclear whether researchers will have weekend access to film at the National Archives or will instead need to wait until Monday to satisfy their genealogical curiosity.

Countdown to 2012
On this page, we provide details about why the 1940 Census is private until 2012 and how you will need to prepare for your research when the big day finally arrives. Also included are summary data for the 1940 Census and some interesting facts about how this Sixteenth Enumeration of the United States population differed from the one taken a decade prior.

1940 Census Questions1940 Census Questions Questions Asked on the 1940 Census
The Bureau of the Census (Department of Commerce) provided standardized forms in 1940 for all Enumerators as in previous years. The standard Population Schedule had 34 questions and more than a dozen Supplemental Questions asked only for those persons who were enumerated on specified lines. This was the means used to ensure a random nature in obtaining supplemental information. Learn more about Questions Asked on the 1940 Census.

1940 US Map 1940 US Map 1940 Map of the United States
By 1940, the outline of the United States and the individual borders for the 48 contiguous states had become familiar to many, both in America and elsewhere throughout the world. The American Flag would display 48 stars, one for each state, for more than four decades. Those researching their family history are encouraged to understand the geographic area where their ancestors lived. This is especially true if your ancestors lived in the northeast or in border towns. It's possible that a move just a few miles away could result in a new state of residence. View 1940 Map of the U.S..

1940 History 1940 History What were things like in 1940?
On April 7, 1940, just days after the official date for the 1940 Census enumeration, Booker T. Washington became the first African American to appear on a United States Postage Stamp. At the time, the domestic letter rate was just 3-cents per ounce. The World was also at war in 1940, but it would be more than eighteen months before the United States would enter World War II following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. By the time this decade drew to a close the war was over, but the entire world learned of unspeakable war crimes that would forever change the world.
Learn more about the history of 1940.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Digging Up Family Roots

By Deborah Horn

     At some point during most holiday dinners, the conversation shifts to family history -- some are just short recollections about the time cousin Bobby fell out of the large oak in grandma's front yard, while others are detailed, like the time Charles, a divorced uncle living on Guam, worked with famed researcher and filmmaker, Jacques-Yves Cousteau.  
     Passed from generation to generation, some stories are lost, while others become the fodder of legend.
      Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Public Library Reference Manager, Jana V. Mitchell, says researching family histories, including written accounts, is fast becoming America's number one hobby. 
     "It's not a glamorous hobby but it's addictive," she says.  And for those who have no idea how to start a genealogical search, she says, "It's easy.  Start with yourself, then your parents and grandparents."
     In addition to documenting any oral information they have to offer, such as family stories, ask them to share any documentation they have, including old Bibles, photographs, newspaper clippings, old boxes filled with "stuff" (a treasure chest for the serious genealogist) and birth, marriage and death certificates.

      So, at the next family reunion, talk to your relatives and ask them to share any information, whether oral or otherwise.  If they're not willing to part with their hard copies, Mitchell suggests making copies. 
     Storage is key, she says.
     While Mitchell likes keeping her family history research organized in a binder, because it's easier for her to access, she says, "There's no right or wrong way to store your information.  I've seen people keep their information in a shoebox.  The main reason for careful storage is so a person doesn't repeat their research."
      Speaking of research, Mitchell says the Pine Bluff Library has an entire section, known as the Arkansas Section in the Genealogy Department, devoted to the state's history.  It also includes a number of family histories, geographical information, the Pine Bluff Commercial on microfilm and more.
     Don't overlook the value of online research.
     While Mitchell says ( and Search For Ancestors ( are great resources, there are local sources worth checking out, such as the library's genealogy and obit website ( and
     While locals come year-round, Mitchell says many of the people who visit the Genealogy Department come during the summer when their kids are out of school.  She suggests planning ahead so a family researcher can make the most of their visit.
     Facts and dates are great but Desha County Museum Director, Peggy Chapman, suggests visiting graveyards where members are buried, and for a more personal look at the era when your grandmother came of age, she suggests checking out local museums.
      It's not institutions like the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas at Pine Bluff that specialize in art, but smaller museums that are often the benefactors of household and commercial goods and other items.  For instance, at the Desha County Museum, there are a number of buildings outfitted like an old grocery store, church and old homestead.  Inside the main building, there are clothes from the famous flappers, handmade baby garments, and an early Victrola record player and telephone -- each the latest technology of its day.
     "If nothing else, your kids can experience life before cell phones," Chapman says.
     Also, she says she tries to collect information on important locals like Robert Moore, House Speaker of the 88th General Assembly. 
     She also keeps local publications on file, as well as a couple copies of Goodspeed.  Basically, this book is a condensed history of the state, its counties and individuals. 
     "These are often extremely useful when researching your family history", she says.
     Like Chapman, Mitchell says people should not be shy about asking for assistance when starting their genealogical journeys.  "We're happy to help, " she says.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sad News

Diana Lott, Assistant Library Director, passed from this life yesterday at the Jefferson County Medical Center.  She was an employee of the PBJC Library for many years.  Diana was a kind and gentle spirit and will be missed.

Because I could not stop for Death, 
He kindly stopped for me. 
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality 
~Emily Dickinson 

REST Miss Diana