Volunteers Provide Peek into America's Past
Volunteerism can be a force to be reckoned with: this holds true for the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project. Through the efforts of more than 125,000 volunteers, the public can now take a look at some of the detailed information from America's 1940 Census.
When the project began, approximately 7,000 volunteers signed up each week to help; since April 2, thousands of volunteers (many of them retirees) have now indexed more than 120 million records- data that reflect a time in our nation's past that is uncannily parallel to the present day.
In 1940, there were 120,000 census takers (called enumerators), and census questions included the usual demographic information, but were supplemented with questions specific to the times, such as the work status of anyone over age 14. The Census wanted information on whether workers were engaged in serving private enterprise, the government in "non-emergency" work or in "emergency" government work (which included Depression-era projects such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Project Administration). There were also questions on unemployment. The enumerators were assigned to districts, their numbers divided by how long it would take to count people in a designated segment of a map. A newsreel on the Project's website shows enumerators approaching both suburban townships and homeless encampments. …