1940 US Census Records Now Available Online

Earlier this month CNN carried a story about the US National Archives releasing the 1940 US Census data, which had been kept secret for 72 years according to statutory law. Researchers and families alike should be able to search the data to learn about how people lived in 1940 and also perhaps to find lost friends and relatives. The Second World War was already raging in Europe and Asia in 1940. The United States did not enter the war until December 8, 1941 (the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked). Many US veterans from the war may be able to share this census information with their grand-children and great-grandchildren.

1939 Test US Census taker
1939 Test US Census taker
The article includes an image from a TIME-LIFE photo archive of a test census conducted in Indiana in 1939. A March 1940 LIFE magazine article reportedly noted that 120,000 census takers were employed to count the United States’ population of the time.

The CNN article offers the following caution for would-be census searchers:

For now, the site is not searchable by names. Starting a search requires an approximate address from April 1, 1940, to find the right “enumeration district,” or geographic area covered by a census taker. (Address sources could include birth, marriage and death certificates, employment records, scrapbooks, Social Security application information or the 1930 census.)

The enumeration district can then be plugged that into a search engine to browse Census records from that area.