Research Our Records

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I find my ancestor's name or records on this web site?

Because the web site is not indexed to specific names and the original records are available only on microfilm. The web site allows you to determine which roll or rolls of microfilm may contain information on your ancestors and how to get access to the microfilm.
Read more

What was the official census date?

The official census date was April 1, 1930.

Do the original records exist?

No. After filming the census in 1949, the Bureau of the Census destroyed the originals. The 1930 population schedules are reproduced as National Archives Microfilm Publication T626 (2,667 rolls).

Why is the last roll of film numbered 2,668, but there are only 2,667 rolls of film?

When the Bureau of the Census numbered the rolls of microfilm, they skipped from roll 1601 to 1603. There is no roll 1602. Rolls 1601 and 1603 include Queens, New York. NARA staff verified that every enumeration district for Queens was microfilmed.

Top of Page

How were Native Americans enumerated?

Native Americans are listed in the general population.

What happened to the Farm Schedules, Unemployment Schedules, Supplemental Indian Schedules?

  • None of these records have been located with the exception of the farm schedules for Alaska, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. These are in the process of being microfilmed.
  • The Supplemental Indian schedules were destroyed, but Native Americans are found in the general population on the population schedules.

What do the columns on the schedule marked "code" mean?

Following questions 21 and 26, the Bureau listed codes. These codes provide no additional information. After the Bureau collected the census schedules, the staff, not the enumerator, coded the information on occupations and nativity using codes established for the 1930 census. The Bureau staff tabulated this data to create the statistical summaries for its reports to Congress.

What are the major differences from the earlier census records?

  1. In 1920, the census asked "if naturalized, year of naturalization." In 1930, the Census asked only if the person were naturalized.
  2. The 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses asked if a person owned or rented a house. In 1930, the schedules also included the value of the home or the amount of rent paid each month.
  3. The 1930 census asked if the home had a radio.
  4. The 1930 census asked a person's age at the time of his or her first marriage.
  5. In 1930, the census asked which specific war a man fought in.

How can I locate institutions in the census?

There are two ways to locate institutions such as schools, prisons, and sanitariums.

  1. On the microfilms, ED numbers for institutions are listed at the end of the Soundex indexes for each state, except for Georgia, which does not include institutions. Institutions are distributed throughout the schedule microfilms.
  2. Institutions can be searched using the online 1930 Census Microfilm Locator if they are a separate enumeration district.

Top of Page

Are there any name indexes?

There are Soundex indexes for the following states in their entirety:

  • Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

In addition, there are Soundex indexes for the selected counties in Kentucky and West Virginia.

  • Only the following Kentucky counties are indexed: Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Kenton, Muhlenberg, Perry, and Pike.
  • Only the following West Virginia counties are indexed: Fayette, Harrison, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, and Raleigh.

Why aren't all the states Soundexed?

In the 1960s, the Bureau of the Census prepared the Soundex cards, but only for the Southern states."

Is it possible that a person can be missed in the index?

Yes, but, there are no statistics on the rate of error. If you cannot find a person in the Soundex, then try to find them on the schedule.

If a state isn't soundexed, how can I search the census?

If you know where the person you are looking for lived, you may still be able to locate them on the census. There are several different search strategies:

  • The Census Microfilm Locator is an online searchable database. You can search by state, county, township, institution, or other place name. As long as the place or institution is included in the description of the enumeration districts, it can be found. The Locator does not provide names or copies of census pages.
  • City directories are useful because they give street addresses. You can take the address and then use one of the following methods to find the enumeration district. To aid researchers, the National Archives has purchased some microfilmed city directories for the years around 1930. This microfilm series is available at the National Archives Building and at our regional facilities. The census is not available at the Presidential Libraries. These are not National Archives publications and can be neither purchased nor rented from NARA. Many local libraries have city directories local to their area.
  • Geographic descriptions of enumeration districts can be found in T1224, Descriptions of Enumeration Districts, 1830-1950 (156 rolls). The descriptions are arranged by state, then by county. The 1930 descriptions can be found on rolls 61 through 90. These are written descriptions of each enumeration district.
  • Enumeration district maps can be found in M1930, Enumeration District Maps for the Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930 (36 rolls). These maps show the boundaries and the number of each enumeration district.
  • M1931, Index to Selected City Streets and Enumeration Districts, 1930 Census (7 rolls). This series cross references street addresses with enumeration districts for more than 50 cities.

How can I view, rent, or buy the 1930 census microfilm?

On April 1, 2002, the census will be available for viewing on microfilm at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and at our 13 regional facilities. The census is not available at the Presidential Libraries.

You can also rent the 1930 census from the National Archives Microfilm Rental Program, P.O. Box 30, Annapolis Junction, Maryland 20701-0030. Telephone: 301-604-3699. Have the state, microfilm publication number, and roll number available when you call.

You can buy copies of the microfilm by calling the Archives II Customer Services Center at 1-866-272-6272. The price is $34.00 for U.S. orders. Have the state, microfilm publication number, and roll number available when you call.

Top of Page

What are the definitions of terms used in the census?

  • Census__1) a counting of the population; 2) the actual pages of the census schedules
  • Enumeration__another word for taking the census
  • Enumerator__a census taker
  • Enumeration district__abbreviated as ED, it is the area assigned to one enumerator in one census period; 2 to 4 weeks in 1930.
  • Institutions__Hospitals, schools, jails, etc. that were given separate EDs for the 1930 census.
  • NP or nonpopulation__an ED where no one lived. Noted as "NP" in the catalog.
  • Precinct__the limits of an officer's jurisdiction or an election district
  • Place__specific geographic places or features such as streets, towns, villages, rivers, or mountains.
  • Schedule__the pages that the enumerators filled out when taking the census
  • Soundex__an indexing system based on the way a name is pronounced rather than how it is spelled.
  • Void__an ED that was combined with another ED. Noted as "void" in the catalog
  • Useful Web Sites:

What questions were on the 1930 Census?

  • Place of abode

    Street, avenue, road, etc.
    House number
    Number of dwelling house in order of visitation
    Number of family in order of visitation

  • Name

    Name of each person whose place of abode on April 1, 1930, was in this family. Enter surname first, then the given name, and middle initial, if any. Include every person living on April 1, 1930. Omit children born since April 1, 1930.

  • Relation

    Relationship of this person to the head of the family

  • Home Data

    Home owned or rented
    Value of home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented
    Radio set
    Does this family own a farm?

  • Personal description

    Sex
    Color or race
    Age at last birthday
    Marital condition
    Age at first marriage

  • Education

    Attended school or college any time since Sept. 1, 1929
    Whether able to read or write

  • Place of birth.  Place of birth of each person enumerated and of his or her parents.

    If born in the United States, give State or Territory.
    If of foreign birth, give country in which birthplace is now situated.
    Distinguish Canada-French from Canada-English, and Irish Free State from Northern Ireland.

    Place of birth__person
    Place of birth__father
    Place of birth__mother

  • Mother tongue (or native language) of foreign born

    Language spoken in home before coming to the United States

  • Citizenship, etc

    Year of immigration into the United States
    Naturalization
    Whether able to speak English

  • Occupation & industry

    Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done
    Industry or business
    Class of worker

  • Employment.  Whether actually at work yesterday (or the last regular working day)

    Yes or no
    If not, line number on Unemployment schedule [These schedules no longer exist]

  • Veterans.  Whether a veteran of U.S. Military or naval forces

    Yes or no
    What war or expedition?

  • Farm schedule

    Number of farm schedule [These schedules no longer exist]

Top of Page

Do you have more detailed tips for geographic searches?

Tip #1. Use known street intersections to narrow search results in heavily populated locations. Geographic and institution searches in large states, counties, and cities often return a very large results set (e.g., a large list of ED descriptions). One quick way of narrowing the search and pinpointing the ED can be to enter the names of the two intersecting streets of your local street corner, if you know them. For example, entering "Grand" and "May" in Chicago. This search will return only two ED descriptions, both of which are on a single microfilm roll. Entering only "Grand" will return 34 ED descriptions contained on nine microfilm rolls. When entering multiple search terms in the ED description, separate each search term by a comma. For example, you would enter the following: Grand, May

Tip #2. Take advantage of nearby major streets. Keep in mind that Bureau of the Census tended to lay out urban EDs along major street boundaries. Practically speaking, census takers didn't have to cross as many large streets to do their jobs when EDs lay on one or the other side of a major street. Entering the name(s) of major streets nearby your location may return search results that allow you to peruse the geographical description and to recognize the best ED to search.

Tip #3. Use current online maps to help narrow down large ED search results. Comparing search results with local maps will greatly assist your identification of the ED.

Contemporary 1930 Census Maps of the EDs are available from NARA, but these are not on-line. Current online electronic maps are useful as long as you remember their limitations and recognize how major cities have evolved over the past 72 years. Among other factors, the above link to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site allows a direct search of a current street address. Also, various useful map overlays can be turned on and off such as street names, institution names, zip code boundaries, various census boundaries, etc. The only downside is that the map data is current (e.g., 2000) as opposed to circa 1930.

For many of the major cities (especially in the Northeast and Midwest), residential streets especially in the "inner city" have not changed much, and people still refer to neighborhoods in many cities as the "old neighborhood". Where there are now expressways that have cut through old neighborhoods, more often than not, you can readily see where the smaller streets have stopped on one side of the expressway, then continue on the other side. Residential neighborhoods (especially the layout of the streets) in big cities such as Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee have not changed much, and the suburban sprawl is largely a phenomenon of the post World War II era. Thus, current online maps may have some value in narrowing your geographic search.

You can use current online maps such as those available from the Bureau of the Census web site at: http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/BasicFactsServlet Or check other commercial online map sites such as MapPoint or MapQuest to compare your ED search results with the local geography.

Tip #4. Your objective in the search is to find the right microfilm roll. The major objective of this web site is to assist you in identifying the correct microfilm roll to view. As a practical matter in obtaining the information needed to view/rent/buy the microfilm, remember that your search will return both the number of EDs and the number of microfilm rolls based on the geographic information you enter. The number of microfilm rolls is more important than the number of EDs because that tells you how many you will have to view to find your family. Census microfilm rolls always contain a number of EDs on each roll and often contain many EDs. Don't be alarmed if the latter is the case for your search. If your ED search results indicate just one (1) microfilm roll number, go ahead and take the steps given when you click the roll number to get access to that microfilm roll. If your ED search indicates many rolls of microfilm, use the guidelines given here and in the Search Strategies pages to narrow the results down to a few rolls or just one roll of microfilm.

Tip #5. Recognize the limits of the database and don't be too detailed in your search. For geographic searches, be careful to not enter too detailed street or place descriptions, such as "W. Grand Avenue." or "N. May Street." For both of these instances (in Chicago), you would get zero results, because the search terms are too specific. It is best to enter the proper name of the street or place without any N-S-E-W designators and without any designation such as "Rd.", "St.", "Ave.", "Blvd.", etc. Similarly, searching numbered street names such as "83rd Street" or "14th Avenue" can also be problematic due to the potential for abbreviations. In the instance of numbered streets, NARA recommends that the user just enter the number into the search form. In this example, you should just enter "83" or "14".

Tip #6. Take advantage of place name and institutional name searches. In conducting geographic searches, especially in less populated areas, try entering local and institutional names wherever applicable instead of entering proper street names. For example, for small towns and villages, just enter the name of the town or village. Similarly, many states and counties have townships and boroughs. Larger cities tended to have numbered Wards and Precincts. If you know the proper name of the particular town, village, borough, precinct, parish, township, Ward, etc. - then just enter the proper name (or a piece of the name, if your spelling is uncertain). Often these searches will point you to one specific ED on a single roll of microfilm. If you know that a hospital, jail, school, or the like was nearby your family's location in 1930, enter the proper name of the institution. Its ED number may be right next to the ED number of the neighborhood you have to search. This approach has worked to narrow ED searches in heavily populated urban areas. Entering generic names such as "hospital", "jail", "convent", "sanitarium", "prison", etc. will, however, return all ED containing those search terms.

Tip #7. "Walk" the ED in your mind, then do it using the microfilm. In general, the Bureau had a consistent scheme for laying out and numbering Enumeration Districts in major cities and counties. The EDs were laid out and numbered in rows with the ED number in ascending order from west to east. If your search result returns an ED number and an ED description that is a bit east or west of what you are looking for, you can readily "walk" your way along the map in the direction needed by incrementing (in the easterly direction) or decrementing (in the western direction) the ED number by one (1) value. The incremented or decremented ED number can be directly entered into the "Search Enumerations District (ED)" data entry form at the bottom of all State Search pages.

Top of Page

PDF files require the free Adobe Reader.
More information on Adobe Acrobat PDF files is available on our Accessibility page.

Research Our Records >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272