Monday, April 13, 2015

A look at the 1940 census

The most recent census to be released is the 1940 census. This is an important census for several reasons. First of all, for most of us, it will include our parents or grandparents and that is the first step in seeing our family in the records as a group. It will cause a feeling of excitement to actually see your family in a record of this type. 

In the United states, there is a 72 year rule about releasing the census to the public. The 1940 census was released on April 2, 2012. Of course just being released isn't much good to most of us unless you live in a tiny village, Until the information is indexed, it has to be  viewed one line at a time. If your family is from a city or town, this can take an immense amount of time. Imagine looking through the records for New York or Chicago, line by line.

We are now 3 years out and the census has been indexed. I have found the indexing to be problematical. I think that there was such a rush to make it available that there are many errors in transcription. You may not be able to find your family and most likely it will be because the last name is just wrong. It took me forever to find my husbands family in New York because of this very reason. I just kept looking for all the individual members of the family and eventually in a soundex search was able to find it. Of course this will only work if the begin of the last name is correct. 

What new information is on the 1940 census? One of the most interesting pieces of information is where did you live in 1935. If your family moves around a lot this can help follow them. We also know who provided the information to the census taker, this is one of the biggest issues with earlier censuses, who actually gave the information.  It makes the 1940 census a primary source.

I will continue with this census in my next post.


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