By law the personal records of those taking part in a census cannot be released for 72 years. April 2012 makes 72 years from the month in 1940 when census information was collected for 132.2 million individual Americans. These records are of critical importance both to historians researching this period and to genealogists working on their family history. The 1940 census records offer both the most extensive and the most personal exploration of America just before our entry into World War II, the moment before everything changed.
INDEXING: Many of these records are not yet be searchable by an individual’s name. They have to searched by a specific location known as an enumeration district. What many people do not realize is that any online record needs to be indexed if it is going to be accessed through a person’s name. The names in these census records need to be transcribed, all 132.2 million of them. FamilySearch has already developed a very efficient online system for online indexing. Two volunteers, unknown to each other, transcribe the same record. Remember the legibility (or illegibility) of census takers’ handwriting can differ dramatically. If the indexing sent in by the two people match, there is a good chance their transcription is correct. If it doesn’t match, the information is sent on to a more knowledgeable third party. This method of indexing, combined with improved technology, has dramatically increased the amount of original records that can be indexed per day. A number of organizations have now combined to help out with this indexing using the methods developed by FamilySearch. They are looking for volunteers who are willing to index online census records using their home computers. If you are interested in helping to create a 1940 Census Index, click here for more information.
FINDING ENUMERATION DISTRICTS: If you need to learn more about enumeration districts or need to find the enumeration district for an address, Steve Morse comes to the rescue. Click here for his Unified 1940 Census Enumeration District Finder. Don’t forget to check out the rest of his site when you have a chance. Trust me, you’ll keep coming back.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: If you are planning to use the 1940 Census information in your research or are just plain curious about it, the following sites will give you far more information than I can fit into this blog.
Family Search Wiki
United States Census 1940
Scroll down past contents and Related Wiki Pages and you will find a wealth of information and valuable links. It is logically set up so that the information is easy to follow and absorb.
National Archives and Records Administration
Before delving into the 1940 census pages, you might want to first check out the About pages the National Archives has put together at http://1940census.archives.gov/about/
Census Bureau Webinar to Discuss 1940 Census Records Release from the Census Bureau on Thursday, 29 March 2012 at 1:00 p.m.
Audio conference — access information
Toll free number: 888-913-9972
Participant passcode: CENSUS
Note: Stay on the line until operator asks for the passcode. Do not key in passcode.
Online presentation — access information
Please login early, as some setup is required.
Conference/meeting number: PW7478285
Conference/meeting passcode: 1940CENSUS
To learn more about researching census records, see the list of books and websites on the posting directly below.