26 March 2012

It's Now 1 Week Until the 1940 Census is Released! What Can You Do To Prepare?

by Jan Alpert

The 1940 Census images will become available at 9:00 am 2 April 2012 at http://1940census.archives.gov. The census will not be indexed when it is released. Ancestry will be working with indexers around the world to complete the index as quickly as possible for their subscribers. FamilySearch has organized a volunteer 1940 Census Indexing Project with genealogy societies across the United States. FamilySearch will post the index on its website www.familysearch.org as each state is completed. If you want to volunteer to index the 1940 census on behalf of NGS go to https://the1940census.com and sign up.

What can you do to prepare for the census? Go to http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/  and become familiar with the “Questions Asked on the 1940 Census.”

Make a list of everyone you want to research in the 1940 census and their address. If you don’t know their address, how do you find it?

1.      Check for a 1940 City Directory
2.      Check for a World War II draft registration
3.      Check for an address written on the back of a photo
4.      Do you have an old address book which belonged to your parents or grandparents?
5.      Do you have any old envelopes from letters your relatives may have written about 1940?

If your family lived in the same house for at least 10 years you can look for the property address in the 1930 Census. Find your ancestor in the 1930 census. View the image of the census page. The street name is written in the left margin of the census page. The house number is written in the first column.

Here are two examples from the 1930 Census:

My father was Charles Nutter. In 1930 he was living with his parents in Pontiac, Oakland Co., Michigan at 944 Cameron Ave.

Next look at the Enumeration District in the top right corner.  In 1930 the ED was 63-54. We will now show you how to convert the ED in 1930 to the ED in 1940.

Stephen P. Morse has provided a tool to convert census Enumeration Districts from 1930 to 1940.

This means that in the 1940 Census, I will find 944 Cameron Ave., Pontiac, MI on ED 63-73. So when the 1940 Census becomes available, I will go to Michigan  and look for ED 63-73.

This next example are my maternal ancestors from the 1930 census in Peoria, Illinois. I know they were living at 200 Hanssler Place, Peoria, Illinois, even though the street name is further down on the census page.

Take the ED 72-55 from the 1930 Census and return to http://stephenmorse.com/census/unified.html

So as soon as the 1940 Census is available, I can go to Illinois and look for ED 104 and find my grandparents in the 1940 Census. In this case I will have to browse three ED’s 104-41, 104-42 and 104-45 which may mean more than 100 pages, but this is still better than having to browse all the pages for Peoria, Illinois.

We want to thank Stephen P. Morse, PhD and Joel D. Weintraub, PhD for their advance work on the 1940 Census and the many other research tools provided on their website http://stevemorse.org/index.html.

copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to [email protected]. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
Follow NGS via Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter.
Think your friends, colleagues, or fellow genealogy researchers would find this blog post interesting? If so, please let them know that anyone can read past UpFront with NGS posts or subscribe!
Suggestions for topics for future UpFront with NGS posts are always welcome. Please send any suggested topics to [email protected]


  1. Hi,

    The above shows some, but not all of the power of the One Step tools. Many people are **not** doing enough with the utilities. This post shows, for 200 Hanssler Pl in Peoria IL three possible EDs in 1940, 10-43, 10-44, and 10-45. However, it is possible using the Unified tool to get down to a single possibility.

    So let's review the steps. After one picks the state and city (Illinois, Peoria), the address boxes open. You then can enter 200 Hanssler Pl, and if you "Get ED", it will then show you the three possible choices. HOWEVER, you will see a statement that you can reduce the number of choices by entering cross streets on that block. Or, to put it another way, we are asking you to start adding the other street names on the same physical block that your house is on. We have a link to a map site to make that easier, and if you clicked on it, you would see that N Linn (east side of block), West Virginia Av (south side of block), and N Bigelow (west side of block) are the 3 other streets on the block. You then go back to the unified tool (back up), and choose the first street. Let's say it's West Virginia Ave. In this case, we probably made a mistake and listed it as Virginia Av W (that's our protocol unless the street name contains the compass modifier such as West End Av, West Virginia, etc). We then see we have reduced our results to two EDs, 10-44 and 10-45. We then can add another street name.... let's add "Linn" (on the list), and now we are down to a single ED #, 10-45. In addition, if we had pressed then "More Details", we would see the general definition for this ED (which doesn't show streets for cities over 50,000), and a link called "view". Press "view" and it takes you to the actual film definition scan for ED 10-45...showing all the blocks within the ED, and the order of street names on each block. And indeed, as a second opinion, you would see that block in 10-45, just as we predicted. So you ***don't*** have to look through all three EDs from the first choices presented.

    Joel Weintraub
    Dana Point, CA

  2. Excellent information Joel! Thanks very much for posting! I have personally long been a fan of Steve's tools and we do want to make sure that everyone maximizes their use of them!