Who were the people in your neighborhood?

by / / Highlights

Here’s a fascinating tool to look into the past of your home, your street, your neighborhood: the 1940 U.S. census records at the National Archives website. You can search or browse by address.

Lincoln Park’s inhabitants included police officers, dockworkers, ministers, homemakers, bookkeepers, mechanics, schoolteachers, waiters and waitresses, salespeople, railroad conductors and engineers, bus drivers, and garment factory workers. Many had been born in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Others had been born in Sweden, Finland, Quebec, Ireland, Russia, Poland, Lithuania…or exotic Arkansas.

Many individuals were recorded as lodgers renting a room in someone’s house or apartment, or someone’s relatives who had come to live with them–none of this “turn the spare bedroom into a home office” business; better to use it for housing an elderly grandparent or a brother-in-law looking for a new job, or for helping pay the rent.

Some of the younger people recorded in the census may still be living in the neighborhood; others would be heading to Europe or the Pacific within a couple of years to fight in World War II, perhaps never to come home. These documents are precious to historians and genealogists because they’re snapshots of who was here on one April afternoon in Lincoln Park, going about their business.

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