Sunday, April 1, 2012

1940 Enumeration District Maps: From the Known to the Unknown

Yesterday I tested the 1940 census Enumeration District maps on addresses that I knew - that of my aunt and uncle in Glendale, California, which I suspect will reveal a clue as to where my father and mother were in the 1940 census, and of the home of my father-in-law's parents in Jacksonville, Florida.

Remembering well the layout of the street on which my aunt and uncle lived, as well as the street on which they owned another home which they rented out, I was able to find the Glendale district map in no time.

Jacksonville has been a much harder nut to crack.  As I said in yesterday's blog entry, the map for the district in which my father-in-law's family lived was not there.  I found, in Dear Myrtle's blog, another way to approach the ED maps, through the Online Public Access. What I found there was even more frustrating, because I was made to feel like King Tantalus, the desired goal being just out of reach.

What happened is that the access to the ED maps for Jacksonville revealed that there are more maps than are showing.  In fact, there are, under each of the three divisions mentioned in yesterday's entry, multiple maps.  Under Jacksonville itself, there are six maps, but I could get only one to show up.  I would select for "Jacksonville," and very briefly I saw six selections flash by.  The browser did not stop on the six selections, but jumped immediately to displaying the first one.  No matter how may times I clicked on the next page button, I could not get the view to budge off that first map, the same one I saw last night.

I do not know whether that was a glitch caused by too many hits on the website or what.  I guess I'll have to try again.  Or perhaps the National Archives need to put up instructions for the feebly inept, such as myself.

However, that is my adventure with the known.

Today I had a little adventure with the unknown.  It is a bit easier to use the ED maps if you have in your own head a clear map of the area from having lived there or visited there.  Much harder is it, says Yoda, if you have no familiarity with the area.  Just for a test, I picked Chicago.  I found someone, their identity is not relevant, in the 1930 census and noted the address of their dwelling.  I then went to the Chicago ED maps, and had the same experience I had with Jacksonville:  I could not access more than the first one.  There were more,  I just could not get at them.

Also, when I did look at the one map of Chicago I could get, there were no street names on a large portion of it.  A study of a marked street map, preferably one from 1940, would in this case be necessary.

So for me, there is a lot of work involved in using the ED maps.

I could just take the easy way out and wait until the index is done.  But I will at least search in Glendale, for which the ED map has been quite helpful, to see if my mother and father were there in 1940.


Anonymous said...


You found the hard way that searching large cities by maps is a difficult task. The maps were originally in color, but the digitized maps are in black and white. The maps were used for other districts, so there are numbers all over the place.

Why didn't you use our utilities at ? If you had addresses you could have found your EDs in minutes. We have over 1170 urban areas with street indexes to help people find their 1940 EDs, all free.

Joel Weintraub
Dana Point CA

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

Ah, Joel, the problem is that I do not have addresses! I do not even know for sure which state my mother and father lived in at the time of the 1940 census.

As for my Chicago experiment, I did have an address, but the map itself did not have any discernible street names. And only one map of what appeared to be several was accessible, probably a glitch.

I will take a look at your utilities, and thank you for pointing that out. I had seen mention of the Steve Morse site in other blogs, but had not yet got to it. However, from what you say, it sounds like the site could help me greatly with my Jacksonville problem. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

Marti said...

Try changing your browser, too. Bet you're using Chrome? Try IE. We dislike it, but it's the "standard acceptable" to most businesses & government agencies.

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

No, Marti, I'm using Firefox. And thanks for the comment love, dear daughter!