A Look at the 1940 Census

Census day: April 1, 1940

Released: Monday April 2, 2012

Where will it be available?

How can I find people on it?

What information is on it?


More information, please.



NARA is providing free digital images (but not indexed). Use this URL: 1940census.archives.gov to go to the digital images beginning 9 a.m. Eastern Time, Monday April 2, 2012. This blog very nicely explains how to use the archives.gov site.

It will also be available at these websites; N.B. sites will vary as to which states they have loaded.

The 1940 census will be put online unindexed, although indexing efforts will immediately begin. (see below).

How can I find people on it (if I don't want to wait for the indexing) ?

  1. Start with the address.
  2. From that find the E.D. (enumeration district)
  3. Browse the pages of that enummeration district.

To find addresses

  1. City Directories (see this site's page Your Guide to Finding Ancestors in City Directories)
  2. 1930 census -- make note of the E.D. in 1930 too.
  3. WWII Draft Records
  4. Naturalization Papers and Petitions; passports.
  5. Social Security Applications (the application; not in the index)
  6. Family papers
  7. Voter registration list
  8. Deeds

To Find the E.D. and browse images...

AncestryInsider (at Family Tree Magazine) offers some very useful blogs about the 1940 census.

A few details...

  • Usually about 30 pages per E.D. -- some more, some less.
  • Some enumeration Districts have a letter suffic (A or B) If a number you have doesn't bring up a district, try adding one of those letters.
  • If your end page is 37 and the next page is 61, no pages are missing. (And you will notice that the stamped numbers are indeed continuous)
    • page 61 is for persons not home at the time the census taker did the enumeration
    • page 81 is for transients.

What information is on it?

In 1940, for the first time, extra questions were asked of a sampling. Those sampled were the indviduals who appeared in lines 14 and 29 -- 5% of the population.

  • Questions asked of everyone:
    • Residence: location, visitation order, owned or rented, value or reant, farm?
    • Name of each individual and relation to head of household, as well as age, place of birth, gender, rac, marital status, education ( whether in school since March 1, 1940 and highest grade completed), place of birth, citizenship (if foreign born), residence as of April 1, 1935. Bonus: An X marks the name of the person giving the information.
  • Questions asked of everyone over 14:
    • several questions concerning employment status.
  • Additional questions asked of the sampling:
    • Place of birth of father and mother
    • Mother tonque (language spoken in childhood home)
    • Veteran stautus: women and children under 18 to answer according to status of husband/father. Children under 18 asked if the veteran father is dead. Living veterans to specify the war.

A few details...

  • If the highest grade completed is 11, the person may still be a high school graduate.
  • If the citizenship column says "AmCit" the person is an American citizen who was born abroad.
  • If a person worked 52 weeks but has was paid no wages, he worked for himself (and wasn't paid by anyone else)


There are 3 (count 'em 3!) separate indexing projects in place.

  • The 1940 Census Community project -- FamilySearch, Archives.com, Censusrecords.com --a volunteer effort.
  • Ancestry.com -- creating its own index; paid indexing. 2 phases; first name only, next more details.
  • MyHeritage (owner of My Heritage, World Vital Records and Family Link. ) - Creating its own index; paid indexing.

This means that until all indexing is done, sites will vary in what is indexed. And once it is all done, a name inaccurately indexed in one effort, may be found in either of the remaining two.

Want to help index the 1940 census? Get more information at the1940census.com -- if you are typing in the URL note that it begins with the word the.

More Information, Please!