Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amazing Find: 1930 Census Occupation Codes

As I was entering census records into my Clooz database tonight, I came across the 1930 census record of my great-great-grandfather's first cousin, Martin R. Pemberton. Martin lived on 24th Street in Detroit in 1930 with his wife and four daughters. I was trying to read the census taker's handwriting for Martin's industry name. I could read that he was a laborer, but the industry column left me befuddled. I could make out either Butler or Butter as the first word. The second word looked like Con't, which made no sense to me. Butler Construction? Butter Construction? The third word is Co., which I assume is an abbreviation for Company. I combed numerous city directories looking for a Butler or Butter Construction at, but had no luck.

Now, I have never paid attention to that lovely little column called Code (for office use only) to the right of industry. It has never had any use for me (or so I thought) in my genealogy research. I thought this was just something for the census office to use for who knows what. Then I found that, lo and behold, Steve Morse has a tool to decipher the 1930 census occupation and industry codes. Now, the limitation is that the code was added after the enumeration was complete and not at the time of enumeration. So, in this case, it seems that the employee at the census bureau may have had just as hard of a time as I did deciphering the industry for Martin R. Pemberton. In any event, the census bureau employee assigned it a code of 7812, which translates to a laborer in the butter or creamery industry. Hmm...I'm still not able to pinpoint a creamery that starts with the name Butter in the 1922 or 1923 city directories at It is possible this company did not begin until after 1923, which is the latest city directory available at I'm sure a 1930 city directory will be more helpful...I just need to get to Detroit for that. Oh, well. I still think Morse's tool is pretty neat!


  1. One more reason why Dr. Morse should be awarded the Nobel Prize for Genealogy.

  2. Thanks for sharing this tip - I figured there must be a breakout of the code somewhere, and several times have wanted to use it in desperation at being unable to read the handwriting for the occupation.

  3. Thanks! There are a couple of people this code would be helpful for.

    I'm with Nolichucky - Dr. Morse is amazing.

  4. What a find! Thank you for sharing this link.