What the Experts Say About the 1940 Census

April The 1940 United States Census will be released on April 2, 2012. This is extremely exciting for genealogists of all levels of expertise. A census is not released until 72 years after it was taken. Here is what some expert genealogists are saying about this census.

It is always exciting when a census is released. Suddenly, genealogists gain a brand new resource to do their research with. This particular census is extra-special in many ways. Information from it could really add to what is already known about what life was like during a transformative decade.

Researchers might be able to use the 1940 census to track the movement of ancestors who were refugees from Europe in the late 1930’s. It could show where the 100,000 Japanese Americans that were sent to internment camps lived before they were interned. There is potential that the census could help to trace the migration of blacks from the rural parts of Southern states to the cities.

What do the experts have to say about the 1940 United States Census? Quite a lot! Thomas MacEntee is the host of the GeneaBloggers and the FGS podcast. He has been involved in helping FamilySearch to recruit volunteers to do the necessary indexing of the names that appear in the census.

When the 1940 census first becomes available, genealogists will not initially be able to search a name index. In regards to this, Thomas MacEntee said:

“It may very well frustrate the newcomers.” He went on to say “It’s like showing up on Black Friday. If you really want that TV set, if you really want that census record, you are going to be ready to go and you are going to keep at it no matter what”.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Harvard University professor who writes, and presents, the “Finding Your Roots” genealogy related television show. He said that the release of the United States 1940 census records will be “a great contribution to American society”. He also said:

“It’s such a rare gift, especially for people who believe that establishing their family trees is important for understanding their relationship to American democracy, the history of our country, and to a larger sense of themselves.”

It is advisable that genealogists take the time to get things ready before the United States 1940 census is released. Keep in mind you cannot simply type your ancestor’s name into a search engine in order to find the information you are seeking. It might be helpful to go find out the address and Census Enumeration District number of your ancestors.

Image by Cathy Stanley-Erickson on Flickr

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