When Can We Expect the 1940 Census?

This morning, while drinking a strong cup of coffee (in an effort to recover from “brain fog” caused by my staying up until 2AM looking through some Drouin Collection records related to David Brian Pinder Hall, my 3rd g-uncle – can you say OCD), I was mindlessly perusing Facebook and noticed that someone had posted a question on the Ancestry.com Facebook page asking if anyone knew when the 1940 census would be released.  How’s that for a run-on sentence!?!?

The 16th Federal Population Census will be released on 2-April-2012 (72 years after it was taken, read about the “75 year rule”  in this article by Joel Weintraub http://members.cox.net/census1940/paper6.jpg).  The data would have been released on 1-April, but since that date falls on a Sunday in 2012, we’ll have to wait an extra day.  The release will be in digital format only (no films will be released to the public) and will be available on computers at NARA facilities and via the Internet.

Initially there will be no index available (although companies like Ancestry, FamilySearch and HeritageQuest will most likely create an index fairly quickly).  At least initially, you will need the Enumeration District (ED), which is essentially the name for the geographic area assigned to each census taker, to be able to locate your ancestors. 

Don’t worry though – Steve Morse is currently working on an aid for converting street addresses to EDs (so on day #1 it will be easier to  find your ancestors, as long as you know their addresses, which you can most likely locate in city directories).  To read about this tool or volunteer to help with the project, go to: http://www.stevemorse.org/census/1940instructions.htm.

NARA also offers some instructions for identifying the ED: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/census/1940/start-research.html 

Something to add to your “to do” list now, so that you will be prepared on the day of census release!!

Wondering what information was collected during the 1940 census? Go to: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/census/1940/general-info.html 

My personal favorite as I scanned the list of 50 is: 

  • SOCIAL SECURITY: Does this person have a Federal Social Security Number? (Yes or No)

If the answer is “Yes”, then I know that I can probably obtain a copy of my ancestor’s SS-5 (social security application) which has a wealth of information usually including the names of their parents, date of birth and (for woman) maiden name – all in my ancestor’s handwriting!!  So if you ancestor is not listed in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), but their response is “Y” to this question then their application is probably available.  See item #6 in one of my previous posts for more information on the social security application: https://passagetothepast.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/learning-from-others/

But {sigh} 1940 was the first census year of “sampling”, so only 5% of respondents ages 14 and over were asked this question (2 per sheet – line numbers 14 & 29).  This was true for 16 of the 50 census questions. Other “sampling” questions included those related to parents place of birth, language spoken at home at earliest childhood, veteran/military service, retirement wage deductions, occupation related, and for women only marriage and child bearing information. 

Can’t wait 630 days (as of this writing)  to see the data in the 1940 census? or 2022 for the 1950 census? or 2032 for the 1960 census?

You can request an official transcript for deceased ancestors right now (see conditions below) using form BC-600 for any unreleased census.  It is a bit pricey – $65.00 for one person + $10.00 for the full schedule transcription (versus select fields), + $10.00/each for all other household members as long as the conditions below are met (3-4 week turnaround, or 1 day turnaround for an additional $20).  The form with additional instructions can be found here: http://www.census.gov/genealogy/www/data/agesearch/bc-600.pdf 

Excerpt from the form:

Deceased persons – If the record requested relates to a deceased person, the application MUST be signed by (1) a blood relative in the immediate family (parent, brother, sister, or child), (2) the surviving wife or husband, (3) the administrator or executor of the estate, or (4) a beneficiary by will, or insurance. IN ALL CASES INVOLVING DECEASED PERSONS, a certified copy of the death certificate MUST be furnished, and the relationship to the deceased MUST be stated on the application. Legal representatives MUST also furnish a certified copy of the court order naming such legal representatives; and beneficiaries MUST furnish legal evidence of such beneficiary interest.

For all you history buffs, here is a link to the videos created by the US Census Bureau to train the 1940 census employees – I really enjoyed them! –  http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/census/1940/videos.html

Last, here is my favorite American history link so you can see what was happening in 1940: http://americasbesthistory.com/abhtimeline1940.html


One response to this post.

  1. You really make it appear so easy together with your presentation but I to find this topic to be really one thing which I feel I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely extensive for me. I’m having a look forward to your next put up, I’ll try to get the hang of it!



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