One of the ancestors I had on my list to look for was my great-grandfather Henry Hickox Chase. I knew from family records that he entered the Traverse City State Hospital in 1936 and was there until he died in September 1940.
I spent some time on Google Maps and Google Earth, trying to pin down the ED for the hospital. Turns out I didn't need to go to the trouble, since the State Hospital had an ED all to itself: 28-18.
What I wasn't prepared for was how big this institution was in 1940! The first four pages enumerated over 160 hospital employees, including physicians, therapists, dentists, psychologists, nurses, clerks, cooks, bakers, kitchen helpers, dietitians, housekeepers, maids, seamstresses, laundry workers, telephone operators, and student nurses. When at last the roster of inmates began, they were listed in alphabetical order. I quickly scrolled through page after page until I got to the "C"s, and was momentarily taken aback when H.H. Chase wasn't listed. Then I realized that they began with the listing of women patients. This listing of just the females went on for over 25 pages - well over 1200 women. When I got to the list of men patients, there he was:
1940 U.S. census, Grand Traverse, Michigan, population schedule, Traverse City, enumeration district (ED) 28-18, sheet 19B, Henry H. Chase, digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 8 Apr 2012); citing NARA microfilm T627, roll 1753.
He was listed as age 69, although he had actually just turned 70. He was divorced, and had an 8th grade education. In 1935 he was living in his own home in Bear Lake, Manistee, Michigan.
I thought I knew what I was expecting to find on the 1940 census. But I'm finding out that this census is giving me a clearer picture of the life and times, and the surroundings each of my ancestors was living in. Where before I may have imagined that Henry H. Chase spent his last years in something approaching a nursing home or assisted living facility, now I have the image of something closer to the truth - of many brick buildings, housing well over 2500 inmates, all of them mentally ill.
Henry Hickox Chase, 1870-1940
The 1940 census is here!! I will have to admit that after all the hype, I was a little disappointed (but not surprised) that I wasn't able to get in to the NARA website to view images. As the National Archives put it the following day, they were expecting a tidal wave and got hit with a tsunami!
The first census discovery I wanted to make was finding my mother, Mary Elizabeth Stoelt, living with her parents on 14883 Faust in Detroit, Michigan. Using Steve Morse's website, I was able to narrow down the Enumeration Districts to 1604A and 1604B. When I was finally able to view images on the day after the release, I scrolled through 32 pages of ED 1604A and 8 pages of ED 1604B before I found them.
I was surprised by a number of things on this census. The circled X next to my grandmother's name meant that she was the one giving the information to the census taker. However, given that she was a high school English teacher, the errors are surprising. My grandfather's middle initial was A, not L, and Ervilla's name is spelled Ervilia. This leads me to believe that my grandmother was answering the census taker's question orally, and that the answers were written down as they were heard.
It was also interesting to see that their housekeeper was enumerated with the family. I remember my mother talking about Bernice, but I was under the impression that she was black, and came in for the day. According to the 1940 census, Bernice Robinson was a 26 year old white woman, born in Michigan, who lived with the family. My mother's family needed the help, because both her father and stepmother worked full-time; Arnold Stoelt was a printer at the Detroit Free Press and Ervilla taught school.
It was at once satisfying, and strange, and sad, to see my mother's name on her first census record. She missed being on the 1930 census by a year (my father missed it by 4 days). I have lots of memories visiting that ivy-covered brick house in Detroit when I was a young girl, and now I have another picture in mind - of my grandmother Ervilla, standing in the front door of that house, answering the census-taker's questions.
Mary Elizabeth Stoelt in 1942, holding her baby sister Ethel.