Genealogists and Historians are Celebrating! The 1940 Census Records are Here!

Today, after 72 years of waiting, the 1940 U.S. census has been released by the National Archives and Records Administration. Hooray!

At 9:00 am this morning, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) began rolling out the census records for the "Greatest Generation" online. As these records will show, 132 million people were living in the 48 Continental United States in 1940. Tens of millions of people living in the United States in 1940 are still living today, making this a record set that connects people with recent family records. The 1940 census included several standard questions, such as: name, age, gender, race, education, and place of birth. The 1940 census also introduced some new questions. One example is that the enumerator was instructed to mark (with a circled x) who in the household responded to the census questions. Other questions included whether the person worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Project Administration, or National Youth Administration the week of March 24-30, 1940, and the income for the 12 months ending December 31, 1939.

These census images will be uploaded and made available on a multitude of websites, including the big genealogy players Ancestry.com, Archives.com, FindMyPast.com, and FamilySearch.org. Don't expect images to be readily searchable by name -- a community of eager volunteer indexers will work to make that possible. A wealth of information about this census can be found at Ancestry.com. Anyone interested in volunteering to index this census may find information here.

Interested in searching for your family history but not sure where to begin? Check out our library's collection of genealogy materials to get yourself started, try your hand at one of our genealogy research databases, or explore some of our recommended genealogy select sites.

P. S. Wondering why this is happening today? Because of The 72 Year Rule: The U.S. government will not release personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency until 72 years after it is collected for the decennial census. This "72-Year Rule" (92 Stat. 915; Public Law 95-416; October 5, 1978) restricts access to decennial census records to all but the individual named on the record or their legal heir. The census date was April 1, 1940. This means that the census records for 1950 will not be released to the public until April 1, 2022.

Grandma Helen, 1942Grandma Helen, 1942

Comments

I'm glad that they wrote the rules to protect citizens privacy, but also to eventually open the records to researchers a reasonable length of time in the future.