How Economic times change families…

In October 1929, the stock market in New York crashed. In the weeks and months that passed, our nation fell into the worse financial times in it’s history, known as the great depression.

Anyone looking at families on the 1930 census can easily see the effects of this depression a year later. My husband’s grandmother and her children are living with her parents. Her husband is not living with the family. Since I know they had more children after 1930, I was curious as to where Granddaddy was. Well, I know that while his family was in KY in 1930, by 1935 he was working in Detroit, MI, so my guess is even as early as 1930, he was living in boarding houses and looking for work.

My great grandfather was a land speculator. He was buying land and then reselling it and living quite nicely in 1929. Then the banks began to call in his loans and he had to sell off land at a huge loss. By 1930, he’d moved from rural Rutherford County, TN to suburban Davidson County, TN, so that he and his children could work in the factories there. He wasn’t alone. Several of his nephews live nearby and work in the canning factory.

I found one distant cousin not only working in the canning factory, but he and his wife also had a boarder living with them, bringing in more money in rents.

What can the 1930 census teach us living today in this recession? Well, for one, people redefined who they were. They were no longer farmers, but were factory workers. They learned new skills. Canning factories needed tinners and so they learned to do that. They were prepared to move where jobs were. They were prepared to live 3 or more generations in a household. They took in boarders. They made do with what they had.

But most importantly, we can learn that this too shall pass. It may take a while, but prosperity will come again.


2 thoughts on “How Economic times change families…

  1. It is fascinating how much you can learn from even something as basic as the census data…I’ve been thinking a lot about what the coming (in my opinion) hard times will mean for all of us and, like you, came to the conclusion that this too shall pass…

  2. The census tells you a lot if you know something about the family and the time period. Household values before 1900 were usually around $1500 for my family after 1930, many of them had little to know personal property. The depression was very hard of families. We can’t even begin to understand how difficult. And hopefully we won’t.

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