Finding addresses for the 1940 census search

I recently posted on Facebook that I am working on my family addresses in preparation for the 1940 census opening next week. A couple people sent me private messages asking how I was doing that. So, here are some tips.

  1. Did your family live in a city or town that published annual city directories? Don’t know? Check the collections at a large city or county public library for these. The county or state historical society may also have the 1940 era directories in book form or on microfilm. You will need to make an in-person visit to view these. Don’t forget that a 1940 directory might reflect a 1939 address. I have two ancestral families that moved a lot. I have gathered 1939, 40, and 41 city directory addresses for them.
  2. Some major libraries such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Library of Congress in Washington, DC, Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin, and others have city directories for other cities in their onsite collections.
  3. Check the websites of places like libraries, historical societies, and big genealogy libraries in your family’s various cities of residence to see if they have digitized 1940 era directories. 
  4., and other subscription website have some city directories.
  5. Other institutions and libraries have digitized directories including those for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Rochester, New York
  6. Check out the helpful United States Online Historical Directories links by Miriam Robbins.
  7. Some major cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago no longer had city directories published after the 1920s due to the size of the population. I need both of these cities for 1940!
  8. Other city directories for the time period we need for the 1940 census research are copyrighted publications and it takes time to get permissions to digitize. It also costs money for this project.
  9. Family photo albums, old letters, memories, birth or death certificates are just a few things the might provide a 1940s era address.
  10. If your family lived in a more rural area or small town, it will likely be easier to just look page by page in the town or township.

Armed with the address, then visit Steve Morse’s website for the “Unified 1940 Census ED Finder (Obtaining the Enumeration District for a 1940 Location in One Step).” Using this will enable you to determine the Enumeration District in which your family lived.

For example it showed me that the St. Paul, Minnesota address where my paternal grandparents lived (Stuart, 2019 Princeton) is in E.D. 90-245. I don’t have to look through the entire city of St. Paul to find them. I have it narrowed down to a segment of pages. My maternal grandaunts lived at 358 Marshall Avenue in St. Paul and they are in ED 90-131, or 133. My 14 year old mother is probably at 486 So. Hamline Avenue which is an apartment in ED 90-80. For those of you who know St. Paul, these apartments are above the Nook and across the street from Cretin High School (today Cretin-Derham Hall).

And those actual census searches can be done starting Monday, April 2d at several sites, including

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