Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome to 1940!

Yesterday morning (April 2nd) those much talked about, much hyped up, much drooled over 1940 census images were finally released to the public eye.  Family historians were poised at computers waiting for 9:00am to strike so our search could begin in this newest lot of information regarding our family members.

I was so excited, I couldn't sleep.  Sunday night I had a sudden fear hit that I might oversleep and miss the party.  It never would have happened as I have 3 kids to get to school...but it was a moment of panic just at the thought.  I tossed and turned in bed all night thinking out my strategy with the morning's schedule to be awake, showered, dressed, and ready to go at 8:30 when the live launch event started.  Hubby was off work, so he could take the kids to school, allowing me to not have to drive home in a frenzy to get back to my computer before all of the excitement began.

I dragged my sleep-deprived self out of bed at 7:15 and checked my Twitter feed to see what the morning's chatter was about in regards to the census release.  I started reading and realized that I had misunderstood (or maybe forgotten) that Ancestry.com was being given the images at 12:01 am on April 2nd, and they were already at work getting the images online, and some WERE already online!  By 7:30, I was at my computer, thanking the genealogy gods that I had Hoosier ancestors since Indiana was one of the first states that Ancestry had put up. 

(So much for showering and getting ready for that 8:30 launch event...)

Let me clarify, this was not how I had wanted to make my first official 1940 search.  I had planned to locate my maternal grandparents with my 2 uncles and aunt. (Hey it's exciting to find ancestors from years gone by, but to see people you actually know and are still alive?  That's kind-of cool!)  Unfortunately, the state of Ohio wasn't an option to search yet, and the National Archives opening was still 90 minutes away...and after all, why waste precious time showering when there are new census images to look at!

So I began -

Indiana...check
Steuben County...check
Richland Twp. (ED 76-15)...check

My first search was going to be for Ezra Carlin, the man who would eventually become my great-grandmother's 2nd husband. 

It was quick, painless, and beautiful when that first census image came up on Ancestry.  There was no waiting or wondering, it just happened exactly like it was supposed to.  But now I had to search him out.  There is no index for the 1940 Census, meaning, you can't just type in that name and find it as quickly as we'd like.  Remember?  This keeps us humble.  I noted that there were only 14 pages in the set, so this wouldn't take too long to get through the district, and I might even get my kids' lunches made for school too!
I began scrolling down that 1st page, eyes adjusting to the strange but incredibly clear handwriting, and just when I got near the bottom and had already began moving to click for page 2, a name caught my eye -



This obviously is not the Ezra that I was looking for, but it is my great-grandparents, and they're still married in 1940! (I have no idea when they divorced, although this helps narrow it down a little bit.)  Oh yes, and that teenager living with them...my grandfather, all of 14 years old, and just 5 years before he would enlist in the Army and fall in love with a certain little "blonde angel".   What I was very surprised to see was that in 1935 they reported they had lived in Tucson, Arizona.  My initial thought was "Huh?"  But then I remembered that great-grandma Helen had a sister who lived in Tucson, and I have a suspicion that they may have been together at that time.
I would like to say that this was a good sign of how this momentous day would go.  After all, if YOU found your ancestor on the very first page of your very first search of the day, you'd be pretty excited to!  But once the live launch event was over (with a few glitches of their own), and the 9:00 release came and went at the National Archives...it was disappointing to say the least.  A lot of excitement, a lot of build up, and it all fizzled throughout the day like a balloon losing it's air as the images were nearly impossible to pull up and view through their website.   
Thankfully, technology can be fixed, and there are options for 1940.  The NARA site is now up and running (quite well this morning actually!)  FamilySearch is putting up their images as quickly as they can, and Ancestry is just as dependable as they always are - pushing right along to get the rest of the census up live on their site within a matter of what I'm sure will be only a few short days.
So who will you find?  I have a whole list of family members that I need to get started on! 
C.

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