For genealogists, family historians and the curious, a long wait is over. The opening of the 1940 census–after the 72-year waiting period–has arrived. The National Archives decided for the first time, in this technological age, to put the scanned and digitized images on their website so they would be literally at researchers’ fingertips. After an overload on the system on opening day (April 2), more servers were added, and we were all finding our relatives, provided we knew where they were living on April 1, 1940.
One big difference about this census is that it is NOT indexed by name. So, for those who were just hoping to go to an index, you will be a bit disappointed. However, the National Archives–with a little help from a gentleman by the name of Steve Morse–did make a searching aid that will help most of us find our relatives. The new way of looking for people on the census is by Enumeration District (ED), the geographical area assigned to each census-taker going door-to-door to get the population counted. It works pretty well as long as the street address you’re searching for existed in 1930, as that was the guide used to make the searching aids for the 1940 census. Even heavily populated cities can be searched. Begin your search at the “Getting Started” tab at 1940census.archives.gov.
The National Archives also offers some great maps of the EDs so you can know for sure you have the right district, if you know where roads are. This is very helpful in trying to find people in rural townships.
If you don’t know your relative’s exact street address, here are some places in your previous research you might find it: Social Security application card; family records such as birth, christening, or death records; a church directory for that time period; city directories; or even military records of WW II.
These websites offer the 1940 census for viewing:
- 1940 Census on FindMyPast
- 1940 Census on FamilySearch.org
- 1940 Census on National Archives
- 1940 Census on Archives.gov
By the way, if you want to help index the 1940 census, you can go the websites listed above and pick an organization you would like to help. Ancestry.com has announced that the states of Delaware and Nevada have already been indexed. They are available to Daniel Boone Regional Library patrons accessing the library edition of Ancestry.com at our libraries in Ashland, Columbia and Fulton.
Now go find grandpa and grandma (or yourself) and check out all the neighbors too! You just might be related to them as well. I’ll discuss printing what you find in a later article. The keyword there is: DOWNLOAD, then print!