Wednesday, 4 April 2012

US 1940 census survey results

Follow the genealogy social media in the past few days and you've been inundated with items about the 1940 US census release. It reminds of the teenagers so anxious to be the first to get their hands on the newest hyped video game they line up to buy. The extreme was the statement that "genealogists around the world are going nuts over the April 2nd release."

What's the reality?

I saw an opportunity for a survey. Thank you to the 68 people who responded, 49 from Canada, 19 from the US.  Tellingly the survey failed to attract the interest of any of the visitors to my site from other countries, and there were plenty. As in the well known Sherlock Holmes story revolving around the dog that didn't bark, they saw nothing to get excited about.

Or perhaps they'd gone nuts enough that they couldn't respond!

What did those that did respond have to say?

Asked who they expected to find in the 1940 US census  95%(US)/14%(Canada) indicated immediate ancestors (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents);  5%(US)/61%(Canada) only extended ancestral family; and  0%(US)/24%(Canada) none.
The survey also asked about others that the respondent might be seeking in the census. More than one answer was allowed.  The majority would look for friends or spouses relatives, the next most common response being nobody, followed by people who lived in a particular house or community. Trailing with a single response was celebrities.
Asked "How interested are you in finding information from this census?" the responses were  39%(US)/14%(Canada) for passionate;  50%/43% for very interested; 11%/24% for somewhat interested; and 0%/18% for neutral - not interested.
A large majority 100%/90% were interested in the success of this census release and indexing as a model for how it might be done in the future and elsewhere?

For those of us with US connections in 1940 this census is an important newly available, or becoming available, database. If you know the community where the person you seek is living, and many do, additional resources available make finding them practicable if rather labourious.
If you don't have a shrewd idea of location you're best to ignore the hype. Organizations doing name indexing will get the job done and let us know about progress thanks to the competition underway. Having waited years for the data to become available I can wait another few extra days or weeks to find my 3rd cousin in New York.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, as a Canadian with no (recent) US ancestors, it is a yawn for me. Heck, I was almost born then - if I wanted to know where people were at that time, I could just phone them up:-) Or, maybe I'm just jealous that in Canada we still have to wait for the 1921 census, and that post-Harper we will not have one at all!

Craig.