25 February 2012

How I'm Looking for Grandmama in the 1940 Census

Betty Huyler
     The first person I want to find in the 1940 Census is my maternal Grandmother, Betty Huyler. I'm interested in finding her first for a number of reasons: this is her first census (she was born in 1931); I can't find her parents in 1930; she'll be living with her step-father, who I want to learn more about; I know her exact address in 1940; I really want to know where she was in 1935.

   Betty had an interesting childhood. Her parents were separated due to the Depression and a "search for work" that lasted 14 years. Her mother temporarily remarried and Betty's last name was Whitfield for a few years. She spent some time in an Orphanage and some time being raised by her Grandparents, Leverett and Louise Waters. As a girl she rode the street cars in Atlanta and was almost killed when she was hit by a car.  That accident caused her to lose many of her childhood memories and she was unable to provide details on many of the interesting aspects of her childhood.

     The key to finding Betty in 1940 is that I have her exact address from a 1940 city directory - or rather, her mother and step-father's address: 413 Central Ave SW, Atlanta, Georgia.  So this should be easy, right? Not necessarily. Atlanta is known for changing street names, both historically and still today. Often streets actually had multiple names at the same time, until they were standardized (see this map from 1895 of double-named streets).  Lucky for me, it appears that Central Avenue SW has maintained it's name since it was changed in 1901 from Lloyd Street.

     Knowing Betty's address is important, since there will not be a name index when the census images are released on April 2nd. Armed with an address, I headed to Steve Morse's One-Step website (please note that I had a hard to utilizing this website using Safari and had to switch to Firefox).

     I used the ED Finder Utility to find the enumeration district that Betty should be in (this tool is available for cities of 50,000 or more people). I did a search for Georgia > Atlanta > Central Av and came up with eight EDs, which is still a lot.  I checked the address on Google Maps to find cross streets: Alice, Pryor and Pulliam.  This brought my results down to two EDs: 160-14 and 160-17.

     Clicking the button for these EDs, I was then able to view details on the microfilm that this district appears on.  It looks like this area, 160-14, was part of Atlanta's 1st Ward and is part of Tract F-45.
     Click! This is a microfilmed image of the Description of ED 160-14 in Atlanta. I can see the names of the streets for each district - this is the original information from which the table above was extracted.

     But I still have two EDs to check. Is it going to be 160-14 or 160-17? They are both in Tract F-45.

     I next, used the National Archive's Online Public Access search to find a the 1940 Census Enumeration Map of this area. I searched for "1940 Census Enumeration Map Atlanta Georgia" and came up with the map of Tract F-45. You can see Central Avenue just to the left of the break in the middle of the image. You can also see Alice, Pryor and Pulliman - the cross streets I pulled from a modern Google map and used to identify this ED. Very faintly, you can see a 14 and a 17 written in the image as well. Those are the specific areas that I will be browsing through on the census to find my Grandmama. Based on this map, I think I will find her in 160-14.  I can't wait for April 2nd!


Ruby Craft said...

Looks like you have been able to do a lot of leg work before the census even comes out. Good Luck

Anonymous said...


If I can add some information about our Large City ED finder on the stevemorse.org website.

First, all cities over 25,000 now have street indexes, with many, many other cities below this mark. We stand at 959 urban areas done going to over 1,000 by the time the census opens.

Second, it's hard to write short instructions on the website. You probably could have gotten to a single ED # from the Large City ED finder if you had entered not only the two cross streets but the back street name as well. The idea is to enter all the names on the physical block that your address is on, not just the two cross streets. It's not always possible to get down to a single ED #, but you didn't fully try to do so.

Third, looking at the census description, you should be able to figure out from it alone, without recourse to maps, which the correct ED is in. Note the description shows each block within the ED, and the position of each street. That is, the streets are shown on the north, east, south, and west side of each block, thus if you know their arrangement on your target block, you should get to the right ED. This works well for cities over 50,000, but cities under 50,000 have only boundary (not block) definitions so it's a little harder to check the results.

Joel Weintraub
Dana Point, CA

DearMYRTLE said...

This is the BEST write up, Valerie. Thanks for sharing. Folks just don't understand that without an index, we will have to search an entire county of census pages. Larger cities have enumeration districts.

Thanks to the marvelous work of Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub, we have hope for getting to the right enumeration district.

Folks can use city directories to find an address between the 1930 and the 1940 census.

Every well-composed post helpf us understand the process better.


Unknown said...

@Joel - Good to hear that you're working on the street indexes for the smaller cities. All of my other ancestors were living in small communities or on farms.

Thanks for explaining the NSEW designations - I'd seen that but didn't know what it meant. In this case though, the historical address no longer exists. My post was getting long so I didn't go into it, but this area is half destroyed by the construction of interstate overpasses. Many of the streets in the area are gone - thus the map was instrumental. Plus I just love maps in general. Being able to see a map of the way the area used to look was the clincher for my understanding the EDs.

@Pat - Thanks! Always nice to hear that someone finds a post helpful.

Rachel D said...

I was trying to figure out the ED for my husbands great grandparents. To my shock, their address was 411 Central Ave SW...they were your relatives neighbors!


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