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June 10, 2012
3rd Place at I, Looking East-Southeast (see more)

You may or may not be aware that this week the National Archives posted online the 3.8 million pages that made up the 1940 census. They aren't yet searchable by name, but they are browsable by "enumeration district." This means that if you don't mind waiting for huge images to load, you can in essence wander from street to street and find out all manner of information about the people who lived there 72 years ago.
Since I've had a little bit of experience with census digging (I did a lot of my family's geneaology back in the early 2000s, before I began some other project that soon sucked up all my free time), I took a few minutes and found the links to the five enumeration districts that cover Near Southeast, along with the map that shows their locations.
So, if you live in Capitol Quarter, ED 204 covers you (from 2nd to 5th and Virginia to M). ED 203 goes east from 5th to 11th, while ED 205 includes all the blocks between 2nd and South Capitol north of M, for you Velocity/Onyx/CHT/Capitol Yards folks. ED 206 goes from M to the Waterfront and over to what's now the WASA site, while ED 207 covers the Navy Yard, which at that time ran from New Jersey Avenue to 11th. (It's actually funny how those boundaries from 72 years ago do a pretty good job of reflecting how the neighborhood's various sub-areas are still seen today.)
This was more than 10 years before the Cappers were built, but the neighborhood wasn't exactly a rich enclave. Plus, not many houses that were standing in 1940 remain in existence today, so only a few people will get the fun of seeing who actually lived in their house back then. But I thought one or two people might enjoy wandering through the many pages to get a feel for the people who lived in Near Southeast as World War II was looming. (You'll probably want to use the Questions Asked page to guide you across the columns. Note that the street name is written vertically in the first column, with the house number next. And the pages don't always perfectly follow the grid, so you may need to page through much of the ED to find the spot you're looking for. Plus, the image display is really cruddy right now, so using the option to download an entire ED and then browsing with the image viewer on your own computer might be preferable.)
Please post in the comments anything interesting you find--you'll make an old lady historian very happy.
(And I guess I might have to dig up the same information for earlier censuses. Not tonight.)
PS: If you don't live in one of these EDs, you can wander through the city map to find yours.
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JD says: (4/4/12 9:20 PM)
And I should mention that I've already done this for my own outside-the-boundaries residence. Our typical Capitol Hill rowhouse was home to a family of three--plus three lodgers!


Shogungts says: (4/5/12 12:47 AM)
Thanks for posting this JD, I live in a small condo building (11 units) across from Garfield park (also just outside of your blog's area) and unfortunately there does not appear to be a way to map the answers to specific units in our building (especially since there were only 8 units on the survey), but there were some interesting answers. Highlights include everyone renting and paying $31 dollars a month and my favorite occupation was 'salad girl' at a restaurant.

Thanks again for providing that map the ED codes as I was getting very frustrated trying to load the huge DC images and sort through them.


crice says: (4/5/12 11:03 AM)
Thanks for posting this information on enumeration districts. It's a real time saver in digging into these records.

Ancestry.com is hosting the 1940 Census information and allowing free access through April 10. I found their site at ancestry.com/1940-census to be a bit friendlier and quicker than 1940census.archives.gov.

I also found stevemorse.org/census/unified.html to be a useful tool for figuring out enumeration districts and accessing the archived information.



stax says: (4/10/12 11:28 AM)
These glimpses into the past are fascinating. I have looked at the censuses for some of the Capitol Quarter blocks back to 1880. I have always though the the neighborhood was occupied by Navy Yard employees when employment peaked there around WWI, but that does not seem to be the case. Most of the residents were African American renters and the predominant occupations were "washerwoman," domestic servant, and laborer.

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