Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The 1940 Census

The National Archives have released the entire holdings of the 1940 Census. The only problem is that they have been released as online pics of the documents themselves, not searchable by things like names.

I decided to dive in and see if I could find the records of my parents and grandparents back in Wisconsin.

I was able to at least access just the caches of documents associated with Iowa County, Wisconsin, where my ancestors lived in the area of the town of Barneveld.

I had to search through a lot of pages, but I finally found many of my people.

Here's the record of my great-grandparents, William and Rose (née Rothlisberger) Massey:

Here's the record of Rose's parents, my great-great-grandparents Friedrich and Elizabeth Rothlisberger:

What most deeply touches my heart in these records, however, is finding my father there. I lost him far too early and miss him sorely every single day. He was born in 1939. 

Here's the record of my grandparents, Allan and Helen (née Adler) Massey:

Their names are the last two at the bottom of one page. And they misspelled my grandfather's name.

I can imagine the scene. A Census official (a seasonal hire, like they are today) has driven up the gravel highway to the Massey Homestead. My grandparents have invited him into a kitchen that looks almost exactly the same today as it would have then. 

They have answered the simple questions, names, ages, places of birth. Two children are in the home. My uncle Gary is 4 and he's probably playing with blocks in the dining room right off the kitchen. My father, William, one year old, is probably being held by Helen this entire time.

The Census official takes out a new form and records the names of those two boys at the top:

There would eventually be four more children, Tom, Linda, Sandy, and Jim, filling that farm house with laughter and joy.

But I smile to picture that scene, that day, when the existence of my infant father was recorded into government record. Memory Eternal, Dad. Requiescas in pace