1940 Census Reveals Forgotten History
ANCHORAGE - In 1940, The Wizard of Oz won an Academy Award, the country was recovering from the Great Depression and Bing Crosby put his trademark touch on his hit single “White Christmas.”
Alaska was, for the most part, untouched wilderness and 19 years away from becoming a state.
A little more than 72,000 people, mostly trappers and miners, called it home. Nearly 4,000 lived right here in Anchorage.
Ruth Dawson, 90, says life was different then.
She was 18 years old in 1940, and though she now calls Alaska home, she was raised in Flint, Michigan.
“That was a much slower time when you could enjoy more,” said Dawson.
As a teen during that time, going to prom and getting a job were her only worries. She made $5 a week as a secretary for a law office and later got married and had seven children.
In 1999, her husband died, and she later moved to Alaska to be with her two sons.
Ruth’s story is just one of more than 132 million stories that have been released this week as part of the 1940 U.S. census, a goldmine for genealogists and historians across the country.
“What this census allows us to do is take a step back and see what ordinary people did, what their contributions were to their communities, “ said Dr. Ian Hartman, a history professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
But for Ruth, it's about unlocking the past.
“If you know something about your family background, I think it helps to understand more about the family dynamics,” she said, so future generations will know where they come from.
To view the 1940 census, click here.