Has anyone looked at the 1940 census data yet? I have to confess that, up until now, I haven’t had much interest in tracking down family information from the past. But this release has peaked my interest because it captures a moment when my parents were barely teenagers.
The search mechanism is rather clumsy since you have to go by street information rather than family name. And even then, you are likely to get a document that is anywhere from 30 to 60 pages long and which much be further interrogated on a page by page basis. But I was able to find both of my grandparents in under an hour. And while none of the information was especially earth-shattering, some of the little details were real eye openers. My dad’s father worked as a grocery store clerk and made $1200 the previous year while my maternal grandfather was an engineer at a local paper mill and earned $2000 over the same period. Putting it in perspective, house values were typically in the $2500-$4000 range. Educational levels, at least in my area, were quite limited; most people peaked out at an eighth grade level of education.
The coolest thing about it was the feeling that I had just enjoyed a nice, long chat with my grandparents, with my dad in the background doing his homework and my mom helping to prepare the evening supper. It was clearly a simpler time. Soon, that world would change in a lot of ways and it would never be the same again.
I shared the printouts with my parents, both of whom got quite a kick out it. My mother, especially, was thrilled to be reminded of neighbors that she had lost track of long, long ago.