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Overheard in GenForum: 1930 Census
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

December 13, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: When the 1930 census comes out in March, will it be Soundexed? -- Charles

A: The countdown has begun. We are all eagerly anticipating the release of the 1930 Federal Census. For some of us it will answer questions that we have had for some time. For others it is a chance to follow up on some of our families to see if they were still living or possibly where they moved to.

Of course we are all wondering what to expect from this census. And since we are getting used to indexes, it is natural that we would want to know about any Soundexes that will be available for this Census.

1930 US Federal Census coming in April, 2002.

Release Date

The 1930 census will be available on 1 April 2002. The date is determined by taken the date the census was taken, in this case 1 April 1930, and then adding 72 years. The 72 years is the provision from the federal privacy act. On 1 April, microfilms of the Census will be available at the National Archives in Washington, DC and the thirteen NARA branches.

For now, libraries can pre-order whole states, or the whole country. Those pre-orders will be shipped the first week of April, 2002. This means there will be a delay in our local repositories while they receive the films and catalog them and make them available. Repositories that just want to order selected films (for example, a county) cannot place their orders until April, 2002, so that will mean an even longer wait before we can access them.

What's Coming

Two questions I see most often about the 1930 census are "Will it be soundexed?" and "What information will be available on the census form?".

First the Soundex. Like the 1910, this census is not completely Soundexed. The following states have been Soundexed for the 1930 census: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Kenton, Muhlenberg, Perry, and Pike counties only), Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia (Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, and Raleigh counties only).

As for the questions asked on the 1930, there were 32 in all. They are broken down in the list below:

  • Place of abode
    • Street name
    • House number
    • Dwelling number (in order of visitation)
    • Family number (in order of visitation)

  • Name
    • Name of each person whose "place of abode" was that family on 1 April

  • Relationship
    • Relationship to the head of the family

  • Home data
    • Home owned or rented
    • Value of home (if owned) or monthly rental
    • If they had a radio
    • If the family lived on a farm

  • Personal description
    • Sex
    • Color or race
    • Age at last birthday
    • Marital status
    • Age at first marriage

  • Education
    • Whether each person attended school or college anytime since 1 September 1929
    • Whether able to read and write

  • Place of birth
    • Place of birth of that person
    • Place of birth of that person's father
    • Place of birth of that person's mother

  • Mother tongue of foreign born
    • Language spoken in home before coming to the United States

  • Citizenship
    • Year of immigration to U.S.
    • Naturalization
    • Whether able to speak English

  • Occupation & industry
    • Trade or professional
    • Industry
    • Class of work

  • Employment
    • Whether actually at work yesterday or the last regular work day
    • If not, the line on the unemployment schedule (the Unemployment Schedule no longer exists)

  • Veterans
    • Whether a veteran of U.S. Military or Naval force,
    • What war or expedition

  • Farm schedule
    • Number of farm schedule (the Farm Schedule no longer exists)

Working without Indexes

While we must wait until at least April before we can access the census records, there are some things we can do now to prepare, especially since most of us will be working in those states that were not Soundexed.

The National Archives has a special set of microfilm on 156 rolls that gives descriptions of census enumeration districts. These rolls cover the years 1830 to 1950. The 1930 census is found on rolls 61 to 90 ("T1224: Descriptions of Census Enumeration Districts" is the publication). This link will give the list of states and what roll they are on for 1930. Your library or other repository may already have them. The Family History Library has the rolls for 1910, another difficult year to research because of the lack of Soundex.

While rural areas will not have a problem, as some counties are on a single roll of film, when working in the large urban areas, a single city, like New York City, may be found on tens of rolls, making a line-by-line search impossible. However, when you combine the information supplied in micropublication T1224 with entries in city directories, you can narrow the number of enumeration districts you must search considerably.

For more information, please see Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Help with Unindexed Census Records.

In Conclusion

While the 1930 census is not completely Soundexed, there are still ways to locate individuals. And you can use this waiting time to do that preparation work, so that when your repository does finally get the census microfilms you can hit them running.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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