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1940 census scans posted online show snapshot of what Wadena County life was like

From U.S. Census archive This map of Wadena from 1940 is one of the many census scans available to the public.

A picture of life in 1940 for Wadena and other areas has been posted online now that the full details of the 1940 census have been released at

While the basic facts of the 1940 census were already available online in the form of PDF tomes, the new releases have full scans of maps and handwritten lists of names and population counts. Every decade, the U.S. government releases the full census records from 72 years prior.

To find a specific person on the site, one needs to know the city or township where the person lived. These civil divisions are organized by enumeration district.

Wadena County's enumeration districts run from ED 80-1 to ED 80-21, and the city of Wadena is under ED 80-19 A-D.

The lists of people on each enumeration district show their names, ages, family members, marital status, county or state or country where they were born, and what they did for a living.

In the city of Wadena, the Fair Oaks Lodge Sanatorium, Wesley Hospital and St. Ann's Convent were shown separately. A scanned page has "Davis Hospital" and "Wadena Methodist Hospital" crossed out and a handwritten note that it was now known as Wesley Hospital. The tracks currently under BNSF were known as the Northern Pacific Railway.

The city's population was counted to be 2,916. The population counted in spring 2010 was 4,088.

Wadena County's population in 1940 was 12,772; in 2010 it was 13,833.

In the city of Verndale, the Crosiers Fathers were listed separately.

1940 was Aldrich's first census as an incorporated town - it had been incorporated 1938 from Aldrich Township and had 152 residents.

1940 also saw Nimrod listed separately from the rest of Orton Township as an unincorporated town. Nimrod would incorporate in 1946.

The 1940 census site itself is not directly searchable by name, but is available for free with a donation box at the Wadena County Historical Society (WCHS). The site indexes census records by name and has been in the process of incorporating the 1940 census.

Nationwide response to the 1940 census government site was so overwhelming that it was not working until late Monday night.

Most divisions of Wadena County saw significant population increases between 1930 and 1940, and many people listed farming as their occupation. Since 1940, however, most of the townships and the smallest cities have seen drastic drops in population.

WCHS director Sandi Pratt said that the rural population decline was probably a combination of young people moving out to the cities for work, and the decline of family farms after the rise of corporate farms. There is less agriculture and less logging industry in the area now, with not enough similar jobs in the country to replace them. The Civilian Conservation Corps had also brought jobs to rural areas during the 1930s.

Pratt is retiring from WCHS. Her last newsletter goes out this week, and she said the new incoming director to be announced April 19 is "a very talented woman and a dedicated team player."

Traffic at the Historical Society has more than doubled in the last several years, from 552 visits in 2007 to 1,281 visits in 2011.