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Anticipating the 1940 United States Census

Sometimes the wait can be just as agonizing and long, such as waiting for the release of the 1940 United States Census.


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Resource: Tracing Lines
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As a child I looked forward with anticipation to Santa Claus and Christmas. Those anticipations don't cease as we grow older, but change in scope and reality. Sometimes the wait can be just as agonizing and long, such as waiting for the release of the 1940 United States Census.

Because of privacy laws, census enumerations are confidential for seventy-two years. We can mark the decades with the release of these schedules, such as 1972 for the release of the 1900, 1982 for the release of the 1910, 1992 for the release of the 1920 and 2002 for the release of the 1930. It will be 2012 when the 1940 United State Census is released.

Some information can be obtained from the enumerations 1940 through 2000. An Age Search is provided by the Census Bureau to assist individuals who need to prove their age for passports, legal issues or retirement benefits. This information is released only to the person named in the enumeration, heirs of that person or that person's legal representative. More information on this procedure can be found online at

The 1940 United State Census will have a new look. One of the most exciting new areas of information for genealogists is the section asking for the person's residence on 1 April 1935. If they were living in the same house, the enumerator was to write "same house" and for those living in a different house, but same city/town they were to write "same place." Because of the Great Depression there were many migrations, so this served as a means of tracking people. If a person lived in a different place, either city/town, county or state, the enumerator was instructed to enter the actual place of residence.

Omissions include the inquiry regarding radio sets and literacy questions under Education. More extensive categories were added to the occupation area of the census. A new section asks if the person has a Social Security number. Persons were asked if deductions for Federal Old-Age Insurance or Railroad Retirement were made from the person's wages or salary in 1939.

All women who had been married were asked if they had been married more than once, replying merely yes or no. They were also asked their age at the first marriage and number of children ever born, excluding stillborns.

War or military questions were asked in categories of the World War, Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection or Boxer Rebellion, Spanish-American War and World War, Regular Establishment (Army, Navy or Marine Corps) peace-time service only and other wars or expeditions. Notice that the Civil War omitted.

To see examples of the forms and questions asked, those above and even more, check out the web page 1940 Census Form Historical Forms and Questions at There are high and low resolution images that can be viewed at this web page.

Some of the states took in-between year state enumerations. These are very helpful in bridging the gap and curbing the anticipation. Should your ancestor be in these areas, they will undoubtedly provide a good deal of information for your research. Florida took enumerations in 1935 and 1945. The originals are in the Florida State Archives, unindexed. Rhode Island State Archives hold the 1935 originals of their enumerations. In 1935 and 1945 South Dakota took a state census. The index cards for these are in the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Rhode Island's 1935 was actually dated January 1936. Microfilm of this is available in the Family History Library (LDS) in Salt Lake City. The South Dakota schedules have also been microfilmed at are available there. All are available on loan at Family History Centers. Check for the needed information at the FamilySearch web page, FamilySearch International.

Waiting a few more years may not be easy, but research continues. Perhaps by the time the 1940 United States Census is released, you will know more about where to find your ancestors. Now is a good time to make lists of where you will look for them.

Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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