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Are you ready for the 1940 census?

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The 1940 US Federal Census is going to be released in 24 days, much to the great excitement of just about any genealogist with roots in America.  I receive emails daily with titles like these:

  • Are you READY for the 1940 Census???
  • Only __ days until the 1940 Census is released – will you be prepared?
  • (my favorite) Are all your Districts in a row for the 1940 Census?

The truth of the matter is that the census is not going to be indexed for an indeterminate amount of time.  Until that index is available, there will be no handy texts to reference, no searches to be done on Ancestry or FamilySearch.  Optical Character Recognition is spotty enough about recognizing type, so it really won’t be that useful on handwritten records.

But you shouldn’t despair!  Here are seven handy ways to narrow down your search.

  1. Make yourself a clear list of  the family or set of families that you want to track
  2. Start drilling down to as small of a location of where they might be living as possible – State and County are often pretty easy, towns or cities are even better.  Neighborhoods are the best!
  3. Look at the 1930 census to find out where they were living then; the family might not have moved.
  4. Look at Enumeration District maps, or the other WONDERFUL finding aides listed on the National Archives site
  5. Look at City Directories for the time (if you live in an area that’s sufficiently large enough to have had one). Washington DC and St. Louis are available at the link above, but others are available at Ancestry (fee based, but often free at your local library) and other sites that have scanned them in.
  6. Forgive me for adding another link to the National Archives, but they do have a copy of the census form (so that you know the information that you’ll be getting) and other handy resources here.
  7. Look for free classes.  Legacy Family Tree just had one yesterday, and you can often watch their archived webinars free for 10 – 15 days.  The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has offered several classes on the subject.  Check with your local genealogy or lineage groups and see if they are presenting any classes or are aware of any coming up.

Good luck and Good Hunting!!!

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