On a spring day in 1940, census taker Joseph D Donohue walked into a Manhattan neighborhood to begin his official enumeration for the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. Did he know beforehand that he would be knocking on the doors of some of the most famous people of his time to ask them some very personal questions? As he made his way through the townhomes and apartment buildings in this Midtown East neighborhood from April 2nd through the 11th, did he realize the greatness in some of the less familiar faces he encountered?
I spent some time this past week going page by page through this Beekman Place enumeration district. As I “virtually” walked up and down the streets with Joseph Donohue, I was amazed at the dozens of familiar names and occupations I came across in just forty-three images. I wondered if there was another single neighborhood in all of America with so many rich stories to tell.
Here are just a few of the people I encountered:
Over the past two months, I have loved getting to know neighborhoods of people across the country as I scroll through one image after another looking for just the right address, hoping the people I am looking for will still be living there. I discovered treasures, not just in New York, but in hometowns where my own family lived – Green Forest, Arkansas; Lehi, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Cousins and dear friends living on the same block. Influential neighbors and business associates. Even a few people who would one day make an indelible mark on the world. As fun as neighborhood visits have been, how frustrating it has been when the person I was looking for did not live where I expected them to be living. How many hours have I spent scrolling through enumeration districts only to find that the address I need seems to have been missed entirely?
Early this morning, Ancestry.com released a complete index of more than 13 million names found in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census for the state of New York. I am so excited to be able to search these records to find the exact person, the exact family, I am looking for with just a few keystrokes in a search box.
Of course, not everyone that lives in New York, lives in New York City. And not every person you are looking for is going to be living there in 1940. So, to help you with your important New York family history research, Ancestry.com has also released three other record collections.
Ancestry.com has partnered with the New York State Archives to publish the 1925, 1915 and 1892 New York State censuses. Both the 1925 and 1915 censuses are digitized and available for the first time online, and along with the 1892 state census, provide the next step for discovery beyond the revelations of the 1940 Federal Census. These censuses are unique because they fall in the interim years between federal censuses. For example, between the 1910 and 1920 federal censuses, New York experienced a population surge of 1.3 million residents due to heavy immigration. The 1892 state census provides information that was lost when the 1890 U.S. Federal Census was damaged and destroyed by fire in 1921. These state census records may be the first glimpse many of us get of our ancestors as they arrive in this country.
So, have fun searching these amazing new resources! But, just because we’ve made it so easy to find your ancestor with a quick search of these indexed records, don’t forget to “take a walk” once in a while through their neighborhoods and towns. You never know who else you might discover. What other rich stories are waiting to be told?
Until next time – Have fun climbing your family tree!
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