1940 Census: Who We�re Searching for and Why

by Julie Hill

Posted on March 28, 2012

1940-census-enumerator.pngBy: Megan Smolenyak2, Family History Advisor to Archives.com

The genealogical world is all atwitter at the prospect of the release of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, which will materialize fully digitized at 1940census.archives.gov at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on April 2nd. The website, created for the National Archives and Records Administration by Archives.com, will give everyone free access to this tremendous record trove that captures the pivotal moment the Greatest Generation was exiting the Great Depression only to be pulled into the demands and sacrifices of World War II.

This remarkable record set will undoubtedly be pored over and analyzed by historians, economists, sociologists and countless others, but I was curious about the personal reasons that so many of us are counting down the minutes until it becomes available.

My motivation is the same as it was when I was at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. for the release of the 1930 census - finding families of soldiers who remain unaccounted for from past conflicts. The details included in these records will allow me to locate their next of kin, as well as relatives who could potentially provide DNA reference samples to help identify the soldiers.

But who, I wondered, would all my fellow researchers be looking for, and why? What follows is a sampling of the responses I received when I asked this question:

  • me!!!! - Joyce R.
  • Looking for my mom and dad who lived in Chicago. In 1930 they hadn't even met. By 1940 they had 4 little girls ages 4, 3, 2 and 1! ? They went on to have 4 more and I was #8! - Patricia B.
  • I want to see if my gg-grandfather got out of jail yet. Northern Wisconsin. brrrrr - Genevieve B.
  • My father and grandmother. There was a sibling listed in the '30 census we had never heard of and I'd love to see if she is listed in 1940. I am also hoping my grandmother is on the magic 11th line on the form -- lots of extra info there! - Susan D.
  • My best friend's dad was born in '37 so I might actually find out who his parents were. - Rosanna W.
  • My Mom. In 1930 in her parents' household, she's listed as "relative" instead of daughter. Hopefully, she'll be "daughter" in 1940. - Jana B.
  • Any potential clues for an adopted grandmother (born circa 1931). - Michelle R.
  • I've made a long list: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and one great-great grandmother plus neighbors and friends - cannot wait!!! - Margaret T.
  • My parents, the first year they were married. - Judy W.
  • I will search for my dad because the earlier census listed him as adopted!! I had never before heard of that in his lifetime!! - Regina G.
  • My great-grandfather whose death was faked in 1914 (found him through naturalization records -- he changed his name). - Lynn P.
  • My father, born 1903, who's been avoiding the censuses. - Diane B.
  • My grandaunt went to Kansas first and then to Los Angeles. It would be interesting to see where she was in 1940. In 1930, she was still in Kansas, so I want to see if in 1940, she was not in Kansas anymore! - Xenia S.
  • Ordinarily I would wait for an index, but in honor of my brother who died last November, for whom this would be his first census, I will look for him and my parents. - Dennis M.
  • My mom and dad and big brothers! I gotta wait awhile to see me! - Sherry K.
  • First person I'm going to look for is my mom and am excited to show her while she's still alive! - I.M.
  • For myself! As an infant, of course. - Candace W.
  • I'm very interested in finding my great grand aunt, Catherine A. Logue. I had recently discovered that she was a nurse in World War I. She served at Base Hospital No. 38 in France. I would love to learn more about her. She supposedly lived in New York, and I've been unable to find out when she died. She had never married either. The 1940 Census would provide one more clue about her. - Patricia R.
  • Anxious to see where my Russian grandparents of Polish descent list their country of birth being situated! Hoping for a breakthrough to continue the search! - Shelley C.
  • This will be the first census where I am listed. Am looking forward to seeing Mom, Dad, my sister and I in our little family's household. - Patricia S-S

What's your reason?

Photo source: U.S. National Archives

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