Learning about 1940

I’ve been indexing 1940 Census records for about a week now and I’m finding I’m learning some things about the 1940s:

  • There were lots of extended families.  I assume this is because in 1940 it was still the Depression.  Not that there haven’t been extended families since then, and the practice is coming back as more kids move back home, but it was still a surprise to see how prevalent it was back then.
  • Also, lots of lodgers.  Another effect of the Depression.   A cheap room for someone and a few extra bucks for the owners.  I thought this was pretty quaint until I realized that I lived as a lodger for a year growing up.  I’ve realized that things from the past that appear to be gone for good can come back: infectious diseases, impure food, home-sharing, and other things.
  • The extended families and lodgers also answer a question for me.  I always wondered why there was a boom in building houses after World War II.  After all, weren’t there pretty much the same number of people before the war?  Didn’t they live somewhere before the war?  It turns out that they did live somewhere, at home.  After the war, though, they probably didn’t want to go back to their family’s house again and were ready for a place of their own.
  • Most of the blacks living in the North were born in the South.  This makes sense as they would have been part of the Great Migration.
  • In the census in Virginia I saw a lot of servants that were black.  I understand that things were different in the South back then, but I wonder how so many people could afford to have servants in the Depression.
  • Lots of people only had grade-school educations.  I’m glad for mandatory education.  Not all of the good old days were good.
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One Response to Learning about 1940

  1. Pingback: More on indexing the 1940 Census | GenVoyage

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