A Day at the National Archives in Waltham

For some, a visit to the National Archives is routine but for those of us who don’t live nearby, it is a special treat.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit NARA in Waltham, Massachusetts, attend a 1940 Census Workshop sponsored by the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, see some old friends, and make some new ones.  All in all, a great day in genealogy land!

When I walked in, the guard said, “It’s 8:01!  I wondered who was coming in the parking lot at this hour.  You don’t mess around.”  No, Sir, I don’t.  By 8:10 I had my coat put away, my belongings in a locker, and was learning the ropes.  The staff is extremely nice and, since I came prepared with a list, I was able to do my lookups pretty quickly.

Once I had my list, one of the staff assisted me to complete an application for researcher identification and showed me how to complete the Reference Service Slip.  Since it was a busy day, they asked if it would be ok if they gave me copies at no charge.  That was certainly fine with me, although I can see that it’s going to be a little trickier for me to come up with proper source citations this way.

By the time I finished my lookups, people from MSOG started coming in.  Pat Stano-Carpenter, President of Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, gave me her I <3 Indexing pin.  Thank you, Pat!  I love goodies!  It was great to see everyone.

Jean Nudd, NARA Archivist, gave a presentation about the 1940 census.  I can’t wait to dig in and read the instructions to the enumerators.  They are lengthy, but I think they are certainly worth the read.  The Abridged Instructions to the Enumerator  and the Complete Instructions to the Enumerator can be found online at www.archives.gov. In 1940, the government was trying to measure the effects of the Depression on the nation and the questions reflect that.  One key thing to note is that in 1940, for the first time ever, the information provider will be noted.  This is of great importance because, for the first time, the census record will now become a primary document.

Thank you to Rick Wetmore of MSOG for the demo about map overlays.  I have used that technique to convert geocache information to orienteering (compass) maps and overlay with park maps to determine trail routes, but I hadn’t thought to use it for enumeration districts.  There are so many Scout skills that come in handy being a genealogist!

It was wonderful to meet Michael Maglio of Origin Hunters and have a great DNA conversation.  We are still a rare breed, so it’s nice to find a new Genetic Genealogy buddy!

At the end of the day, I walked away with several new friends, a few goodies, and six naturalization records.  A stellar first visit to a repository!  The weather did not cooperate so I could not go to the Mt. Feake Cemetery in Waltham to locate my third great-grandmother May Wilson Armstrong, so I will definitely be back!

 

© 2012, Jennifer Zinck. All rights reserved.

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