November 2005

Spotlight On…   The 1930 Census

a census taker at work

About the 1930 Census

In April 2002 the United States Census Bureau released individual census records from the 1930 Census. Public law requires that these census records be kept confidential until 72 years after the census in which they were collected. Because of this legal restriction, which is intended to protect the privacy of individuals, up until now the most recent published family census information was from 1920. Non-personal data, such as population statistics, from the federal census have long been available and can be searched in print in the Government and Business Department or online at the Historical Census Browser.

a copy of the 1930 questionnaire

The 1930 Census was a watershed mark in American history. It came at a time when the population of the United States had been swelled by immigration and when both the Depression and the advent of new technologies were rapidly changing the quality of life. The 1930 Census was the last census that asked residents if they could read or write and it was the first to ask if a household owned a radio. It also recorded the service of veterans in American wars. The Census Bureau has compiled interesting data and photographs that place the Census in its historical context. Other FAQs, including what questions were asked on the 1930 Census form, are answered at the website.

Finding and Using 1930 Census Records

The 1930 Census records are images on microfilm rolls that were previously secured in locked vaults at the National Archives. These film rolls are now being offered for purchase and PLCH is obtaining the full collection through a gift from the Hamilton County Genealogical Society. The Ohio Census records have been received; finding aids for other states are gradually being added. They are located in the History and Genealogy Department at the Main Library. Films may also be rented, viewed, or purchased through NARA facilities. For the Cincinnati area, there is a street index to aid in searching. For other areas, searchers may need to determine the Enumeration District for an address. The NARA website offers detailed instructions on how to research the 1930 census microfilm.

Genealogy at the Library

The History and Genealogy Department has a strong and deep collection of genealogical resources. Regularly scheduled programs provide instruction on genealogical research and the use of specialized finding tools. The Government and Business Department holds additional Census data, including a list of resources for Genealogy in Public Documents. Visit or contact these departments for more information on their holdings and programs.