Do you want to find out more about where your “people” were in 1940? On Monday, armchair geologists could get a new glimpse at their family history with the online release of the 1940 Census Data by the National Archives. But before you get too excited about what Aunt Milly or Grandpa Joe were like 72 years ago, there are some things you need to know.
The site has been plagued by crashes due to so many early visitors. “In the first three hours, we had 22.5 million hits on the site,” National Archives and Records Administration spokeswoman Susan Cooper said to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re a victim of our own success.” CBS News reported that users had to wait “upwards of 20 minutes” for the pages to load. I myself tried and even after 30 minutes I could not get the results of my search to load.
The records include information about the 132 million people that were living in the United States in 1940. Right now you can only access information with the city, state, street address, and, if you can dig it up, something called a “enumeration district or ED” (which is the geographic areas assigned to each census taker,) which will help in the search.
But if you don’t have the street where your family lived or the ED, then trying to find the census data will be a challenge. Fortunately, there is some hope. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com will be partnering to add in a name search capability.
If you were one of the lucky ones and were able to find your relatives, there could be some interesting data to discover. The census included the person’s birthplace, his/her citizenship status, occupation. and what race he or she was, as well as what he/she earned, if the person owned or rented their home, education level and even things like whether the individual had a radio or flush toilets.
It’s a great way to give your children additional insight into how their grandparents or great-grandparents lived. But to find the answers you’ll have to be patient, either until the issues with the site are resolved or until they get the handy last name search functionality.
Have you or will you try to look up your family records from the 1940 census?