Sunday, April 8, 2012

how to get started on your 1940 census adventure

Well it's been a few days since the 1940 census was officially released by the National Archives and I'm sure many of you are excited to get started.  Now the thing about the census being newly released, is that it has yet to be indexed.  Now what that means to you as a researcher is that you have two options; A, wait about 6 months until, and have indexed all the census records, or B, do the leg work and hard searching yourself.  I will warn you that doing this research yourself is going to be a bit time consuming, but depending on what kind of information you have readily available about who you are looking for it might be a little easier than you think.

I opted to attempt to look for as many family members as possible on my own.  Now keep in mind, I am doing research for all FOUR of my grandparents and their ancestral lines, so needless to say I've got a loooong road ahead of me when it comes to the 1940 census.  I started off my going through each of my family tree binders and making a list of the people who should be alive and on the 1940 census.  I then went through all those people and made note of their status on the 1930 census as well as an pertinent information on that census; i.e. enumeration district, city ward and address.  I typed all this information up so that I could have it available and easy to read whenever I wanted to search for my family.  One issue that I'm sure will be prevalent for most people is going to be whether or not you can read the census taker's handwriting, that is something you will just have to work with or decided to wait on that family till the records have been fully indexed.

As far as what site to start looking at I would suggest  They took longer to get their census records up, but I think you'll find that in comparing the same images from all three sites available that's are much cleared and easier to read.  Ancestry also has a TON of links and things to help you with your search.  To get yourself started I suggest this: Your Guide to Finding Ancestors in 1940 Census Images.  It is a great step by step run through of ways to look for your family in the 1940 census.   There are pictures and detailed information on places to look for more information.  I also would suggest checking out this website, 1940 census general information.  It has a list of all questions asked on the census, as well as a very easy to read, printable census form.  I printed this so I can easily go through the census and see what I'm looking at.

I headed on over to and with the information I had on my great grandparents, Andrew and Elizabeth Panfil, I successfully found them on the 1940 census record.  If you have them on the 1930 census I suggest looking in that same areas again for them.  On the search page you can click on "already know the enumeration district from 1930?", it will prompt you to choose the State, then County & then district from the previous census.  From there you just have to look at every image and try to find your family.  Where I have hit a brick wall so far is that there are family members who were still too young to be out on their on in 1930, but now in 1940 there are no longer at home.  I have no information as to where they might be that I know of, so unfortunately there I will probably be stuck waiting for the indexes to come out for cetrain people.

Happy hunting genealogy nerds!