1940 U.S. Census Records Release Date Nears

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The detailed records from the 1940 U.S. Census are set to be released on April 2, 2012 at 9am Eastern Time.  In additon to the standard questions of name, age, gender, and race, education, and place of birth, the 1940 U.S. Census also asked more detailed questions:

The instructions ask the enumerator to enter  a circled x after the name of the person furnishing the information about the family; whether the person worked for the CCC, WPA, or NYA the week of March 24–30, 1940; and income for the 12 months ending December 31, 1939. The 1940 census also has a supplemental schedule for two names on each page. The supplemental schedule asks the place of birth of the person’s father and mother; the person’s usual occupation, not just what they were doing the week of March 24–30, 1940; and for all women who are or have been married, has this woman been married more than once and age at first marriage.

Since Title 13 of the United States Code restricts the availability of personally identifiable information from census records, this data is now only able to be released after seventy-two years now that the privacy protection preventing the mass release of some of the 1940 U.S. Census has expired.

The 1940 Census data will help researchers understand more about the 132 million Americans.  An article from the Associated Press notes:

Researchers might be able to follow the movement of refugees from war-torn Europe in the latter half of the 1930s; sketch out in more detail where 100,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II were living before they were removed; and more fully trace the decades-long migration of blacks from the rural South to cities.

3.8 million digital images of census schedules, maps, and enumeration district descriptions will be made available through the site 1940census.archives.gov.  Previously, those that wanted access had to scroll through microfiches only available through National Archives and Records Administration locations.  Plans are in the works to index the newly available census data so that searches can be performed.  It will only be a matter of time after that before the first national maps showing geographic analysis of the data make their way to the public eye.

A portion of the 1940 census form, showing the first 16 column headers.
A portion of the 1940 census form, showing the first 16 column headers.

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