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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Eagerly Awaiting the 1930 Census
by Rhonda R. McClure

June 21, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

I can still remember my own eager anticipation of the release of the 1920 census. It was critical to the research of my paternal lineage. I was so eager for its release that I hired a researcher in Virginia, who frequented the National Archives, to search the Soundex for me as soon as it was released.

The time is growing close now to the release of the 1930 census. The 1930 census will be released at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and its thirteen branches on April 1, 2002. Soon after that, researchers around the country will have access to the films through their local repositories. But what can we expect to learn from the 1930 census? How easy will it be to search for a person in this census?

There is eager anticipation for the release of the 1930 census.

Questions of the 1930 Census

What most people want to know is what questions were asked on this census. More importantly, what new questions were included and what questions were omitted or changed.

The 1930 census asked 32 questions and included three more columns than the 1920 census. There were changes to some of the questions from the 1920 census as well.

  • Place of Abode - columns and questions the same as 1920.
  • Name - no change from the 1920.
  • Relationship to Head of Household - no change from the 1920.
  • Home Data - Column heading changed from "Tenure" in the 1920, and in addition to asking if the home was owned or rented, there were three additional questions under this section. Enumerated individuals were asked the value of the home, if owned, or the monthly rent. They were asked if they owned a radio set and if the family was living on a farm.
  • Personal Description - The 1930 census adds a column to record the age at the time of the first marriage. Of course this may not be the present marriage.
  • Education - Similar to 1920, though it now includes college in the question about attending school and compressed the ability to read and write to one question.
  • Place of birth - Lists the place of birth for the individual, the father and the mother. Did not require the native tongue after each one of these as the 1920 did.
  • Mother Tongue - This new section was to be filled out only for those who were foreign born, and pertains only to the individual being enumerated.
  • Citizenship - Does not include the year of naturalization. Asks if the individual can speak English.
  • Occupation - No change from 1920.
  • Employment - New section asking if the individual was at work "yesterday (or the last regular work day)" and, if not, the number on the Unemployment schedule. The Unemployment schedule is one unique to the 1930 census, due to the Great Depression, unfortunately it has not survived.
  • Veterans - New section that asked whether the individual was a veteran and, if so, of which war. The war codes given to the enumerator included World War (WW), Spanish-American War (Sp), Civil War (Civ), Philippine Insurrection (Phil), Boxer Rebellion (Box), Mexican Expedition (Mex).
  • Farm schedule - No change here, just the number where the individual appears on the farm schedule. The farm schedules for 1930 did not survive.

1930 Soundex News

Since the partial soundexing of the 1880 census, we eagerly wait to see how much or how little of subsequent census years would be soundexed. Only the 1900 and 1920 have been completely soundexed. The 1930 is incomplete as well.

There are only twelve states that were soundexed for the 1930 census. Two of these states had only a few counties soundexed. Those states that were soundexed were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (counties of Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Kenton, Muhlenberg, Perry, and Pike), Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia (counties of Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, and Raleigh).

When working in those states that have not been soundexed, the use of city directories will play an important part. After locating your ancestor in the city directory, you will then need to turn your attention to the geographic descriptions of census enumeration districts that are found in the NARA micropublication T1224 Descriptions of Census Enumeration Districts 1830-1950 on 156 rolls of microfilm. Those pertaining to the states in 1930 can be found on rolls 61 through 90.

In Conclusion

The great countdown has begun as we look forward to the release of the 1930 census. While some of the farm and unemployment schedules no longer exist, I think we will find the information on our ancestors in 1930 to be interesting. I know that I will be saddened as I look at my ancestors in this census if I discover they were unemployed. This was such a hard time for almost everyone. I am interested to see if any of my ancestors did have a radio. I figure I can use them as the excuse for the televisions in my home today.

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 rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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