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1930 Census Released

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In the biggest news for genealogists since the opening of the Ellis Island website last fall, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 1930 census last week – all 122 million records.

The 1930 census contains all the standard census information such as age, place of birth, and relationship to head of household and occupation, and adds questions that will be a boon to researchers. Some of the new information available includes: the respondent's age at their first marriage; the language spoken in the home prior to immigration if foreign born and the year of immigration; the industry worked in and class of worker in addition to the standard occupation question; and the respondent's veteran status and which war they fought in. 

The census is always reflective of its time and the 1930 census is no different. At the beginning of the golden age of radio, one question asked by enumerators was whether the family owned a radio set. The question, “Did you work yesterday?” is particularly poignant in this census taken just a few months after the stock market crash of 1929. On a brighter note, 1930 was the last time enumerators asked if a respondent could read and write.

At this time, only ten states are indexed by name, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia plus certain counties for Kentucky and West Virginia. If you’re not lucky enough to have had ancestors living in those states in 1930, you’ll need to know exactly where your relatives lived (enumeration district) in order to find them easily or quickly on the census microfilm.

The popular website ancestry.com is already posting 1930 census images and information for paid subscribers and will be posting more every week until the entire census is online. In addition, they have announced they will be rapidly indexing the remainder of the states enumerated in the census.

If you don’t have access to ancestry.com, census information is also available from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NARA also maintains 13 regional facilities throughout the U.S. The closest facility to this region is in Seattle.

If you know where your family was living in 1930, go online to NARA’s website (nara.gov) and follow instructions to determine the microfilm roll number that will contain your family’s census information. With that number, you can visit a NARA facility to view the microfilm; you may also rent microfilm from NARA, or purchase a roll for $34. 

If you don’t know where your ancestors were living, and they weren’t in the states already indexed, you’ll have to wait for a complete index – it’s been suggested that ancestry.com might have one completed within six months.

Census information is kept private for 72 years, once the average lifespan, which is why the 1930 census has only been released this year.

All censuses taken prior to 1930 are available to the public. Many are posted online, and census information is also available through the Family History Centers operating within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). And all census information is available through NARA. Census information from 1940 to present is only released if a compelling need for the information is proved.


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Landon Otis

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