Thursday, January 19, 2012

Get Ready Genealogists!


April 2, 2012 is a date many genealogists are eagerly awaiting.  This is the day that the 1940 Census will be released to the public!  For many of us, including myself, this is exciting stuff.  I will now be able to further construct my great-grandfather's timeline and where he was living when the enumerators came knocking at his door.

Census records have been recorded in America from 1790 to the present.  From the years 1790-1850 not much information was given, only head of household, how many family members and what age groups they were, such as how many males under 5 or how many females over 15.  Starting in 1850 more questions began to appear, such as the place of birth of each person, either a county was listed or a state, if a person married within the year, the age of each family member, the value of any property and the occupation of the residents.  In 1870 and 1880 began to list the month each person was born, naturalization information, whether the parents were born in a place other than the US and most often would list the place of birth.  The 1890 census met with an unfortunate fate.  Most of the records were destroyed in a fire and only a few fragments were recovered.

Beginning in 1900 even more information was obtained such as the number of years individuals had been married, how many children a woman had and how many lived, the year of immigration to the US, whether their status was "AI" for Alien, "PA" for first papers, or "NA" for naturalized, if they owned or rented their home and if that home still had a mortgage or was owned free and clear.  The 1910,1920 and 1930 census had basically the same information as the 1900, with a few exceptions.  The 1910 census listed if a person was a survivor of the Civil War and was indicated by a "UA" or "UN" for Union Army or Navy, or a "CA" or "CN" for Confederate Army or Navy. By the 1930 census any Civil War participants still living were listed with "CW"  Also, on the 1910 census there are several numbers that scribbled over information in columns 30-32 and is statistical data only that was used by the Census department and not related to the person listed.   The 1920 census listed the year the individual was naturalized and the 1930 census listed if a man had military service in other wars such as "SP" for the Spanish-American War, "Phil" for Phillipine Insurrection", "Box" for the Boxer Rebellion, "Mex" for Mexican Expedition and "WW" for World War I.  This I found quite interesting to know as I never knew what those initials meant and now can go back to see if any relatives served in any of those conflicts.

There are some websites where census indexes and records can be searched for free, but not all the years are available.  A couple of decent ones are, which can be searched by states if you know where an ancestor may have lived and  Most of the Census Finder website is index records only, but I have found where an ancestor was listed in the index which told me that a record was done, so that was a good aid to use.

In the 1940 census which will be released at 9:00 AM on April 2, in additon to the standard questions, there are several new fields that were added.  The enumerators were told to put a "circled X" after the person's name answering the questions.  Some of the questions asked were if the person ever worked for the CCC, WPA or NYA during the week of March 24-30, 1940 and the income for the previous year ending December 31, 1939.  With this census there is a supplemental schedule to have two names for each page, the place of birth of the person's father and mother, the person's usual occupation, about whether all the women in the household have been married or not, if they were married more than once, and the age of first marriage.  It will also have the location, such as street, avenue or road, and house number.  This of course is the first census where the question could be asked if the person had a Social Security number.

The census will be made available to the public for research on April 2nd, but only at a National Archives location and the closest one to Albuquerque is in Denver.  However, the Genealogy section at the Main Library will most likely have the census as soon as it can be transcribed after the release date, whether throught the Ancestry or Heritage Quest database.  Also, Fold3 History and Genealogy Archives may have some older census records, but it is not known at this time if they will have any of the 1940 census.  There should be more information on what the Genealogy section will have at a later date.  There will be no name index available at the National Archives, but and have both stated they will have one as soon as it can be transcribed after the release date.  If you decide to use Ancestry from your home computer there is a monthly fee involved and the basic fee for searching US records is $19.95.


Anonymous said...

"The census will be made available to the public for research on April 2nd, but only at a National Archives location"

The above is absolutely wrong. The 1940 census images will be released by NARA on April 2nd, 2012 and will be freely available on the Internet. You don't have to go to a NARA branch to see it. It will not have a name index on opening, but free locational tools are available to find people on this census on day 1 of the opening. I recommend people use our Tutorial on those tools at:

As for a name index, Ancestry has announced their name index for the 1940 census, when available, will be free to use through 2013, and FamilySearch will also produce a free name index.

Joel Weintraub
Dana Point, CA

abcreads said...

Thanks for the info!