A Snapshot of the Country at a Turning Point
Have you ever wondered where your grandparents were living in 1940, what the family income was at the time or what portion went to rent? You can find out on April 2, 2012 when the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) releases the 1940 census records to the public.
Since public records are a great resource when figuring out the facts of your family history, you might find this information helpful.
Accessing the 1940 Census Online
Starting at 9:00am Eastern Time on April 2, 2012 you’ll be able to access the census records free of charge at the National Archives 1940 Census Page.
Typically, private companies like Ancestry.com take over digitally transcribing census records so you can search them online, but for the 1940 census, the National Archives has done this for you. That means that you won’t need a subscription to a genealogy research service in order to view the information contained in these records.
Using the 1940 Census to Find Your Family
However, using the census may still be a little challenging. The information contained in the records has been sorted by the “enumeration district,” or the portion of a city or town where your family members lived. You need to know this enumeration district in order to access the personal information.
It’s easier than you might think to find out your family’s enumeration district. Just follow these steps:
1. Go to the National Archives Website
2. In the box labeled “Search Online Public Access,” type in “1940 enumeration district description for [enter county].”
3. Find your family member’s district by using their address.
What You’ll Find in the Census from 1940
The 1940 census contained a great deal of information about American families during this period of time. You can expect to find the following data in these records:
- Name of head of household and all household members
- Age, race, marital status, and gender of all household members
- Level of education for each member of the household
- Place of birth for each person
- Relationship of each person to the head of household
- A mark designating the person who provided this information
- Family income for the previous 12 months
- Address of the home
- Whether the home was owned or rented and the value of the home or monthly cost of rent
Making the Data Personal
As the census was taken in 1940, it provides a snapshot of what life was like during the years of the Great Depression. America was just recovering from this period of historic economic downturn, and we were about to enter into the Second World War.
Although it offers many details about daily life in 1940, the census can’t provide the stories and memories that make this iconic period in history come alive for current generations. However, this census data can serve as inspiration for older relatives to share their stories with younger generations. While knowing where your grandmother was living in 1940 can be illuminating, it’s recording her story that will really make that information shine.
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