1940 Census


On April 2 the 1940 census was released to the public after a mandatory 72-year waiting period.

Censuses are a treasure trove of information for historians and genealogists. Not only are people’s names recorded, but a number of other questions are asked and answered, including place of birth and occupation. The 1940 census also asked people where they were five years before; a timely question given the migration that occurred during the 1930s due to the Great Depression. Plenty of other information was collected which sheds further light on the lives of Americans in 1940.

There was lots of excitement and anticipation for the release of this census. The National Archives had a countdown on its Web site, with many articles leading up to the release. Sure enough, the initial Web traffic showed that folks were indeed excited. According to a Facebook status update of the U.S. National Archives on the morning on April 5:

“We are now running at more than 100 million hits per day. To date, more than 2 million searches have been performed and more than 61 million images viewed.

“Forty-five terabytes of data have been downloaded. The average page load time is about 1.8 seconds.”

As someone who visited the site on the first day, I can tell you that there were plenty of kinks, which was to be expected. But seeing the data, in its much more raw state (names have not yet been indexed), was neat. It felt much more hands-on and was more of a reminder of the “old fashioned” way of researching.

With regards to indexing names, it’s worth mentioning that a wonderful project is under way at the1940census.com to index all names. Let’s take a look at the Payson area according to the 1940 census.

One of the numbers that I’m really interested in is population. You can probably tell that from previous articles. Since Payson was not yet incorporated, it’s a little bit more challenging. From what I’ve found, there were 103 households in the area labeled under Payson. My feeling is that this was not for the area that we consider the Town of Payson today, but the surrounding area as well — I’m thinking zip code 85541 instead.

The names are also interesting and two really caught my eye: Sampson and Ida Boles. In my book “Zane Grey’s Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead” I referenced them in connection with the 1930 census and also mentioned them living in Payson in 1939. However I also stated that, “in the early 1940s the Boles once again moved back to Miami.” In my mind they were there already, but the census proves differently, listing them in Payson. According to the census they had been in the same place in 1935. Amongst those also listed with the Boles on the same page are Flora Haught, Million Baxter and Richard Taylor.

Another page caught my eye. It’s in Payson and the following is written at the top. “The following persons were enumerated in the Payson Hotel in Payson which is unincorporated.” Here is listed the family of William Wade. The Payson Hotel was the forerunner of the Ox Bow Inn, with construction having begun in 1932 by the Wades. Along with William, his wife Jessie Estelee, son William Howard, niece Ruby Lee, and aunt-in-law Norah Childers are listed on the page. Estelee is listed as the hostess and Norah as the cook. The value of the place was listed at $10,000 in the census.

A doctor was listed in Payson. Francis H. Cartmell, 57 years old, and his wife Kathleen M, 54, can be found. He was born in Kentucky while she was born in Arizona, and five years earlier they had been in Yavapai County. It’s worth noting that Dr. Cartmell has been mentioned briefly on the Roundup online boards in the past by Pat Randall.

Ultimately the 1940 census is yet another piece of the puzzle for historians and genealogists alike. You can take a look at it at: http://1940census.archives.gov. I would also suggest stopping by the Northern Gila County Genealogical Society at 302 E. Bonita in Payson.


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