Finding a Person in the 1930 Census (Even Without An Index)
Learn the four basic methods for locating a person on the 1930 United States federal census, and what to do when indexes are not available (or useful).
Tip: Before searching the 1930 census learn as much as you can about the person you seek, especially where he lived in 1930. The more you know, the more likely you are to recognize him in the census when you find him.
WHY USE THE 1930 CENSUS? It is the most recent available federal census. Genealogists use it to quickly find families and their neighbors. It shows a name, age, birthplace (state or nation), race, occupation, residence, marital status, age at first marriage, father's and mother's birthplaces, citizenship, and other information for each person in the United States on April 1, 1930.
- 1 Four basic methods for locating a person’s name in 1930 census:
- 2 Ancestry.com Online Index
- 3 Heritage Quest Online Index and Images
- 4 United States 1930 Census Soundex
- 5 Page-by-Page Search (without an Index)
- 6 See also
Four basic methods for locating a person’s name in 1930 census:
- Ancestry.com Online Index (easiest) available at Family History Library and largest Family History Centers.
- Heritage Quest Online Index (next easiest) only available for five states.
- U.S. 1930 Census Soundex (more difficult) only available for southern (10 full, 2 partial) states.
- Page-by-Page Search (without an Index) (most difficult) available for all states and territories. Try this one when the first three methods have not worked.
Ancestry.com Online Index
Ancestry.com has an every name index to all the census states and territories in 1930. It is the best index to use if you can get access to it. The full index and census images are available at selected public libraries, and you can also use it at home if you pay a subscription fee. Or ask friends if they have a subscription. EVEN WITHOUT A SUBSCRIPTION anyone can use the free portion of the index to find at least the county where a person lived. Only the free portion of the index is available at most Family History Centers. The full index and census images are available at the Family History Library, and largest Family History Centers.
If you, or the library you are using, have an Ancestry subscription, you can click on a name in the census index to view an image of that census page. Without an Ancestry subscription you cannot view census images for 1930--however, you can still view the census by obtaining a microfilm copy of the census, or viewing the Heritage Quest Online census images.
Tip: When an online index doesn't work try again using these strategies:
Heritage Quest Online Index and Images
Heritage Quest Online has the 1930 census index for only five states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia, but has the census images for ALL states. These census images and partial index are available at the Family History Library, most Family History Centers, and some public libraries. You can also use Heritage Quest Online at home if you pay a subscription fee, or if you have a library card from selected public libraries. The images and index are on the Internet at http://persi.heritagequestonline.com/hqoweb/library/do/census/search. If you, or the library you are using, have a Heritage Quest Online subscription, you can click on a name in the census index to view an image of that census page. You could also browse Heritage Quest Online census images without using an online index.
United States 1930 Census Soundex
United States 1930 Census Soundex is a state-by-state phonetic index on microfilm for only twelve southern states or partial states:
Alabama (Jefferson, Mobile, and Montgomery counties are separate)
Kentucky (only Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Kenton, Muhlenberg, Perry, & Pike counties)
West Virginia (only Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, & Raleigh counties)
The Soundex microfilms are available at the Family History Library, branches of the National Archives, and can be ordered at Family History Centers. Some of the census information about an ancestor is on the Soundex card itself. But the original census page will show much more. Use the information on the Soundex card (county, city, enumeration district (E.D.), sheet number, and volume number) to find and view the census page on the microfilm copy of the census, or to view the Heritage Quest Online census image of that census page.
| SOUNDEX uses a phonetic code to bring together in one file most names that sound alike but are spelled slightly differently. For example, the surnames Stewart, Stuart, and Steward all have the same soundex code and would file together. To obtain the Soundex code for your ancestors' names use this Yet Another Soundex Converter (YASC) on the Internet.|
Figure 2. Sample 1930 Soundex index cards. Original image from the NARA 1930 Census Microfilm Locator.
Page-by-Page Search (without an Index)
Use this method when the previous methods fail. This is a name-by-name and page-by-page search of the census in the county where an ancestor lived. In small rural counties with only a few hundred residents this is easy. In big cities with millions of citizens, the task is daunting unless you narrow the search to a specific area such as an enumeration district and street address (there are tools to help do this). The best strategy is to narrow the search to as few enumerations districts (and in big cities, as few streets) as possible within the county.
Step 1. Determine AT LEAST the county where the person lived in 1930.
Also if possible, it would help to determine the city/town/township and street address. Nine options for finding or guessing these include:
A. Ancestry.com. Use the free portion of Ancestry to find the county where an ancestor lived.
B. Family Group Records. Look at these records to find the places were the person was living, his parents, siblings, or children were born, married or died near the year 1930. There are several places to search for family group records: relatives, the Internet (e.g. MultiGen), and microfilms of the FGRC Archives Section, and FGRC Patron Section.
C. Relatives. Ask older relatives where the person lived in 1930.
D. 1930(ish) city directories or phone books at the Family History Library and other libraries. Use the Family History Library Catalog Place Search to find the city, and then look for the topic Directories, and then look among directories printed around 1930.
E. Earlier censuses. Find the person on the 1920 index and federal census, or on a state, or on a church census as close to 1930 as possible. Take note of the street (if any), town, and county where he lived. If the 1920 census enumeration district (ED) is known, use this online converter to determine the 1930 ED.
F. World War I Draft Registration. Look for male close-relatives born between 1872 and 1900 on Ancestry.com. Registration cards show their address in 1917 or 1918. Men did not have to serve in the armed forces to appear on draft registration cards.
G. Addresses on birth, marriage, or death certificates from around 1930 for close-relatives.
H. Obituaries. Search obituaries for clues about the residence of survivors or the deceased. Microfilms of newspapers with obituaries can be obtained via inter-library loan at college or public libraries. To learn the address of newspaper microfilm repositories in each state see the U.S. Newspapers Program on the Internet.
I. Tax lists or voting registers. Use the Family History Library Catalog Place Search to find the state and/or county, and then look for the topic Taxation, or Voting Registers for the years around 1930.
Step 2. Determine the most likely enumeration districts (ED) in that county.
|An Enumeration District (ED) is a sub-division of a county--the part of a neighborhood which one census taker was assigned to survey. Even small counties had several EDs. The 1930 census has an identifying number for each county, and for each ED. For example, Pima County, Arizona has an identifying number of 10, so ED 69 in Pima County is ED 10-69.|
You can save time by narrowing your search to as few enumeration districts as possible. There are two online tools to help determine enumeration districts:
- Rural ED Finder if you know a town, township, or part of the county where an ancestor lived.
- Urban ED Finder if you know the street address in a city where an ancestor lived. Street addresses can be found in city directories on microfilm (see D in Step 1 above).
Select either the Rural ED Finder, or Urban ED Finder to search first, and follow the instruction below.
Rural ED Finder
A. Open Obtaining 1930 ED Definitions in One Step on the Internet.
B. Select the state where the ancestor lived.
C. Enter the town, township, or part of the county in the field labeled Search within the state for:
D. Click the Search button to see the list of EDs for that state and place.
E. Copy or print the list of enumeration districts.
F. Click on each Roll number, and print the next page with its Contents of the Roll.
Urban ED Finder
A. Open Obtaining EDs for the 1930 Census in One Step (Large Cities) on the Internet.
B. Select the state where the ancestor lived.
C. Select a city. (If the city you need is not listed, try the Rural ED Finder above.)
D. Select a street—where the ancestor lived about 1930.
E. At the bottom of the screen enter the house number and click the MapQuest button.
F. Open the MapQuest map (click Get a map) and make a note of the two nearest cross-streets to the red star.
G. Close the MapQuest map (X-out).
H. Back at the Urban ED Finder select a street (the closest cross-street) in the same field you selected the first street.
I. Then select a street (second closest cross-street) in the same field.
J. Make a note of the Enumeration Districts common to all Selected Streets.
K. Click on the ED [number] button.
L. Click on each Roll number, and print the next page with its Contents of the Roll.
As you finish Step 2 be sure you have in hand the printout information about:
- The most likely enumeration district numbers for your ancestor's residence
- The National Archives and Family History Library census microfilm roll numbers for those EDs
- Where those ED numbers are located on each microfilm (Contents of Roll).
Step 3. Browse the census images hunting for the ancestor's name.
There are two options for viewing the census:
1. Heritage Quest Online census images
A. Open Heritage Quest Online Browse the Census images on the Internet.
B. Select the census year 1930.
C. Select the state.
D. Select the county.
E. Select the location (town, township, or part of the county). After you select the location a census image will appear. You can find the ED number in the upper-right corner of the census page. Move through the census pages until you find the appropriate ED.
F. In the appropriate EDs, browse name-by-name and page-by-page hunting for the ancestor. In cities also look for the street address.
G. When you find the ancestor, make a print of the image, and write the microfilm number on the print.
2. Microfilm census images
A. Obtain the 1930 census microfilm from the Family History Library, a Family History Center, or the National Archives.
B. On the microfilm find the county and the ED (upper-right corner of the census page). The printouts from Step 2 will show where to locate the ED on the microfilm.
C. In the appropriate EDs, browse name-by-name and page-by-page hunting for the ancestor. In cities also look for the street address.
D. When you find the ancestor, make a photocopy, and write the microfilm number on the copy.