Monday, February 14, 2011

Research Tip: How & When 1940 U.S. Federal Census To Be Released

The National Archives & Records Administration has announced that the 1940 U.S. Federal Population Schedule to be released to the public April 2, 2012, will not be available on microfilm as it has been in the past.  To go along with the technological times, the census will be at first released digitally only on the NARA website.

The good news is that access to the census will be free.  The bad news is that there will be no index accompanying the images.  Indexing will no doubt be conducted later by Ancestry.com or perhaps the Family History Center, but in the short run, browsing will be the only option.

Many of the questions on the 1940 questionnaire are the same as in past years, but include a few interesting additions such as:  income in 1939, whether person has a Social Security Number and whether those benefits or those from Railroad Retirement were part of their 1939 income.  Women are also asked how many children they've born, not including stillbirths - a question which hasn't been asked since the 1910 census.
Special censuses of Housing and Agriculture were taken along with the population schedules, but were subsequently destroyed.

The NARA has created an informative website that answers questions about the 1940 census and includes recommendations for researchers in preparation of its release.  You may view videos that were released to the public prior to the taking of the census encouraging the public to participate.  A complete list of questions asked, enumeration district descriptions and finding aids, and other general information is included.