Genealogists everywhere are counting down the days to April 2nd, the day the 1940 U.S. census is officially unveiled to the public on http://www.archives.com. The Sixteenth Census of the United States was taken on 1 April 1940, and has been sealed by Federal statute for the last 72 years to protect privacy. The National Archives and Records Administration, owner of the records, will provide public access, free of charge at NARA facilities nationwide beginning on April 2nd, and has made arrangements with Archives.com to release the images online the same day.
Archives.com has agreed to provide the public with free access to the images, however it will be some time before any indexes or official finding aids are available to facilitate searching the records. In the meantime, Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub, over at the One Step website, have been hard at work creating tools to aid researchers in navigating the un–indexed records, including their 1940 census tutorial at http://stevemorse.org/census/quiz.php. Steve and Joel suggest to all researchers that they begin with the tutorial quiz, which is a set of interactive questions and research hints, links, etc. Steve uses that tutorial to show 4 interesting examples of the power of the 1940 tools available to researchers. They also provide a guide called “Getting Ready for the 1940 Census,” containing hints on how to prepare an efficient research plan before the “big day,” available at http://stevemorse.org/census/1940census.htm
Erie researchers will find Steve and Joel’s online tool for “Determining the Enumeration District of Large Cities” especially useful, as Erie is one of the cities for which they’ve created a street index and ED converter using the 1930 census. So if you suspect your ancestors were living at the same address in 1940, check out that tool at http://stevemorse.org/census/index.html
We are also fortunate that Blasco Library clerk Debbi Lyon has been hard at work putting together her own 1940 census finding aid for patrons of the Heritage Room. She is assembling a binder containing lists of enumeration districts (EDs)for Erie County. The section on Erie City will include city block detail. Debbi is also creating street maps which are color coded by ED. The maps are based on a 1942 city council map of the city, which is particularly helpful because it includes ranges of address numbers on the various city blocks. Library patrons will be able to look up their ancestor’s addresses in the library’s copy of the 1940 Erie City Directory, and then use Debbi’s finding aid to locate the district in which that ancestor would have been enumerated in 1940. Thank you Debbi!.
For more information on the release of the 1940 census, and for an explanation of the questions which were asked that year, check out NARA’s website at http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/index.html
April 2, 2012, is going to be a busy day for genealogists all over the world. For many of us, it is the first census in which we will find our own names, or those of our parents. The potential for a genealogical windfall is great, and it is never too early to make a plan!!