1940 Census – Sault Ste. Marie, MI

The National Archives released the 1940 Census online. It was released Monday morning, but their website was so hammered with traffic that I couldn’t access it until early this morning. The census data is photocopies of the original handwritten forms. I seem to recall that good penmanship was a prerequisite for getting hired as a census taker then. I’ll let the reader be the judge of that. The image is full size. Just click on it to enlarge it. Click on it again for full size. The records are organized into enumeration districts. These are geographical districts that the Census Bureau used to partition the country. The above pictured page is one of 48 pages in enumeration district 17-22. The Soo is divided among some thirty districts. To look up anybody, you really need the person’s street address in 1940. I chose the Soo branch over the other three heritage legs, because the Soo was the smallest town. This probably did make it easier, but it was no piece of cake.

The family of interest on this page are the Finlaysons, Anne’s mother’s family. It is the second family on the page. It was a large household, at least by today’s standards, with nine people living under one roof. If you remember your history, in 1940 WW II had started the previous year and America would enter the war the next year. I am reminded of the old curse, may you live in interesting times. Here is a link to the key, of what each of the different columns on the form mean.

Interpreting this form, it appears that Anne’s grandmother answered the questions. Anne’s grandfather was an assistant cashier at the First National Bank. I belive that he eventually rose to run the place. Their house cost $4,500. Anne’s mom, “Bubs”, was in fifth grade and was eleven years-old. It is difficult to read the form. Time and photocopying have not been kind to this form. This is the standard sized photocopy. High definition ones may be easier to read. Now that I’ve found the Soo, census, I guess that there are three more households left to do. Now which enumeration district is Bowen Street in?

As postscript to this post, I wonder about the nameless census taker. Nameless, because even though he signed the form, I can’t make out his or her signature. I can make out the date, April 8th, almost 72 years to the day. I wonder was he a local guy, he was certainly a long named one. I can make that much out. If he was local, how did his friends, neighbors and acquaintances feel about him asking these personal questions? Now a day it is all computerized, but back then it was a man at the door, “Good morning, Mam, I’m from the Census Bureau. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

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