Sunday, March 25, 2012

The 1940 Census Release and Yesterday’s Census 1940 Program at NYPL

I was in New York City yesterday, speaking at a special event at the New York Public Library (above). 

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, supported by the New York Public Library and the National Archives at New York City, hosted a special full-day event at the new York Public Library focused on the 1940 Census, called, appropriately enough, “The Road to the 1940 Census.”  

Nearly 500 people attended.  While the event itself was free, the Bartos Forum at the Library can only hold 500 people, so pre-registration was necessary.  Online registration filled those seats in short order.

The morning’s speakers included Arnold Jackson, Associate Director for Decennial Census at the U.S. Census Bureau, who focused on the functions of the US Bureau of the Census, both over time and into the future   After Mr. Jackson, the stage was taken by Constance Potter, the Senior Genealogy Specialist from the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington. A recognized expert in both genealogy and the 1940 census, Connie focused on the unique features of the 1940 census and how genealogists can best make use of that information.  An extensive Q & A period let participants quiz Connie on all aspects of the 1940 census.  

As the morning came to a close, Ben Vershbow, manager of the NYPL labs, described how the Library’s unique digitization of the local 1940s era phone books will make it easier for those who want to zero in on their New York City ancestors’ entries in the 1940 census even before the crowd-sourced census index is completed. This digitization project will appear on the NYPL’s website (for free) on April 2, the same day that the census becomes available.  

Talk about “interactive!!!!”  You will be truly amazed!!!

 I was really impressed that the NYPL programming staff was able to develop this sophisticated app in such a short time.  It’s also a great example of how social media can be used to enhance genealogy.  Even if you have absolutely no NYC 1940s era family, it’s still worth checking out.  I won’t describe it to you in detail here; you can all visit the NYPL site on April 2nd, 2012 (less than 2 weeks) and play with this marvelous piece of software yourselves to your hearts’ content.  I’ll have a blog link to the site as soon as it’s available.  Suffice it to say that if you have a NYC ancestor or two in the 1940s time period, you will be more than a little bit impressed.

After the lunch break, Dr. Suzanne Wasserman took control of the program.  Dr. Wasserman is the Director of the Gotham Center for New York City History and her topic was “Beyond the Census Numbers: Life in 1930s New York.” She provided a fascinating, illustrated look at depression-era NYC and described how the Depression robbed the newly arrived middle class of their economic status, as they suck into the morass of the “newly poor.”

I provided what was the clean-up talk for the day: a talk about the earlier censuses entitled - Hidden Clues, Overlooked Connections: Revisiting Those Pre-1940 Federal Censuses in which I discussed all those things you probably missed in your census research first time around, and why, when it comes to census research, it always pays large dividends to thoroughly check your work and revisit earlier censuses.

Overall, a good time was had by all.  Interest in the 1940 census is high.  People are psyched.  Let’s hope the momentum continues into 2013.

And, for those of you who might remotely care, here’s a link to my new blog, which touches on matters not quite appropriate for this forum (including yesterday’s walk from the train station to the NYPL and back) .  It’s short and anecdotal. In a word, it's about "stuff."

1 comment:

  1. I was there too and thoroughly enjoyed the day. You are a very engaging speaker and introduced me to some things about earlier censuses that I didn't know. I hope you can join me as a guest on my radio show, The Forget-Me-Not Hour: Your Ancestors Want Their Stories to Be Told in Poughkeepsie sometime.