It’s finally here! If you have family that lived in the United States, the 1940 U.S. Census is up and running today, April 2, 2012. Some of the people listed will even still be alive today. As required by a confidentiality law, 72 years must lapse in the United States before a census may be unveiled. As well as collecting the usual information, such as names, addresses, ages etc., census enumerators in 1940 asked things that had never been asked before – about personal income, migration patterns, employment, and whether households had servants or boarders. While the images will be available on April 2, you can only search the documents manually. In other words, all you can do is move from page to page with a click of your mouse – people’s names will not be indexed for some time to come.
Another interesting thing is that this census is being released only in digital format, and not in a microfilm version. Institutions and individuals alike will have free access available. This census will be the first to use cloud computing (hundreds of servers in the ‘cloud’) in order to handle the extreme workload of the servers in the first few days. However, if thousands of genealogists try to access the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at 1940census.archives.gov this morning, there may be some glitches to contend with – clouds or no clouds. I think I will be waiting until they index the census by names.
According to Ancestry.com:
“Ancestry.com took delivery of the 1940 census from the National Archives at 12:01 a.m. on April 2, 2012. Currently we are in the process of loading all 3.8 million census images online. Once an image is online, you can browse it to see the information included on that page. When all images are uploaded, you’ll be able to browse by enumeration district to find your family’s neighborhood.”
Please remember, that if you don’t have access to Ancestry.com at home, the library provides free computer access for one hour a day, or you can book the genealogy room for an afternoon or evening.