The 1940 U.S. Census: Soon, A Searcher’s Treasure Trove

Big news for genealogists, historians and even for people just curious about their own families: the 1940 U.S. Census is now available on the web. Unfortunately, at this point at least, it takes a bit of skill and determination to navigate through the data, though there are many efforts underway to make this incredibly valuable trove of data more easily searchable.

For more info and to begin searching, here’s a collection of direct links to some helpful material.

Since the database became available on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) last week I’ve heard from a few people asking me about when you’ll be able to search the 1940 Census database by name.

Here’s precisely what NARA has to say:

The 1940 census has not yet been indexed by name, so you must search the census by location or enumeration district. There are initiatives underway to make the 1940 census searchable by name, including a community volunteer project. If you’d like to help make the 1940 census name-index available for free you can sign-up as a volunteer at the1940census.com.

While NARA has tools to help users locate records by enumeration (where someone lived), it’s still not nearly as fast or efficient as searching by name. 

Ancestry.com’s 1940 Census Search

While NARA works to build a name index, Ancestry.com is gradually rolling out a name index for the 1940 census out to the public. Ancestry.com announced that they now have all 3.8 million scanned 1940 U.S. Census page images available, and have released a searchable name index for two states with the others to come.

The first two states available for name search are Delaware and Nevada. A good start, but a lot of work left to do.

The 1940 Census index is free to search via Ancestry.com from now through the end of 2013. You do need a login/password, but registration is simple (e-mail address only) and does not require a credit card. You can access the Ancestry.com 1940 census databasehere.

Looking For New York City Residents

In conjunction with the census release, the New York Public Library has developed a tool named Direct Me NYC 1940 that let’s you locate people by name and address, using a database of 1940s residential telephone directories.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Search Engines: Government Search Engines | Search Engines: People Search

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About The Author: is a librarian, author, and an online information analyst based in suburban Washington, DC. He is the co-founder and co-editor of INFOdocket and FullTextReports.com and prior to that was founder/editor of ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. He has worked for Blekko, Ask.com, and at Search Engine Watch where he was news editor. In 2001, Price was the co-author (with Chris Sherman) of the best-selling book The Invisible Web.

Connect with the author via: Email



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  • http://marylenelittlecorner.wordpress.com/ Marylene Goulet

    Ancestry is not the only one indexing the 1940 U.S. Census!
    Might I mention Family Search (LDS) and their indexing project : https://the1940census.com/getting-started/
    As much as I appreciate Ancestry’s effort to provide the public with free stuff (for once), I feel the quality of the transcription projects is less than that of Family Search who have been doing this for years with the help of dedicated volunteers. Plus, Family Search is always free.

  • kaythegardener

    I would like a simple search engine for the states which are already indexed by name, instead of only PR releases about its progress!
    My state Oregon is among the first, but I can’t find its name index available yet.
    Grrh…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1807012154 Stefan Pioso

    kaythegardener, it looks like Ancestry.com is in the process of building exactly what you’re looking for.  They recently released new 1940 pages (not sure how many states as yet), one per person in the census, which can be found via a Google search for Name+1940 census e.g. “Anne Everson 1940 census”.

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