02 April 2012

1940 U.S. census is now available

Seventy-two years after a United States census is taken, it is released to the public. Today, April 2, 2012, at 9 a.m. ET, the 1940 census became available to genealogists everywhere. But this release is new and different because it's the first time that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has uploaded the census pages online (all 3.8 million of them!). 

Instead of visiting a NARA branch to scroll through microfilm, like we did 10 years ago, now we can see the images on our computers, for free, thanks to a partnership between NARA and Archives.com (a subscription site). 
With the excitement generated by the 1940 census release, NARA has had technical difficulties "due to extraordinary demand." The web site is undergoing updates as I type. But in the meantime, if you haven't done it already, you need to know the addresses and enumeration district (ED) numbers to find your families in the 1940 census. Why? Because there's no index to the names yet. However, countless volunteers are working together to create an index through FamilySearch Indexing. Read my article about volunteering as an indexer. 

Look for old address books, city directories, phone books, letters, and whatnot to find street addresses. In addition, subscription site Ancestry.com is offering free access to 1 billion U.S. 1940s-era records to help. This offer is good through April 10, 2012, at midnight ET. Records include the 1930 census, city directories, World War II draft cards, school yearbooks, obituaries, and much more. 

Other 1940 Census Projects

Besides the official 1940 NARA site, other genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com (subscription only) and FamilySearch (free) received the files to upload at 12:01 this morning. As the day progresses, you'll see updates on their web pages to see how far they've gotten in uploading all these images.

It looks like a lot of genealogists will be up all night doing research!

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