United States Census, 1940 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: United States Census, 1940 .
The collection index of population schedules listing inhabitants of the United States in 1940. This was the sixteenth census conducted since 1790. There were 134 million individuals enumerated this census year. The schedules cover the 48 states as well as Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The index is being created by FamilySearch, BrightSolid, and Inflection.
For a list of records by localities currently published in this collection, select the Browse.
The 1940 census includes the following information:
- Full name
- Age (can be used to calculate an approximate birth year)
- Relationship to the head of household (active military personnel in naval yards, army posts, etc. may use the term "Sailor" or list military rank rather than actual relationship to head of household)
- Birthplace of the individual and the parents (included even if the parents were not members of the household)
- Marital status (single, married, widowed, or divorced)
- Year immigrated to the United States
- Whether a naturalized citizen
- Native language if foreign-born and whether can speak English
- Whether a military veteran
- Street address and house number
How to Use the Record
To begin your search it is helpful to know:
- State of residence
Search the Collection
To search the United States 1940 US Census collection by name, fill in your ancestor’s name in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.
If you did not find the person you were looking for, you may need to search the collection image by image.
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the "State"
⇒Select the "County"
⇒Select the "Township or Other Division of County"
⇒Select the "Enumeration District" which takes you to the images
Search the collection by image. Again you will need to compare the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor.
Be aware that with either search you may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.
As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor’s given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence and age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.
Keep in mind:
- If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
- Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.
Using the Information
When you have located your ancestor in the census, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. For example:
- Use the age listed to determine an approximate birth date. This date along with the place of birth can help you find a birth record. Birth records often list biographical and marital details about the parents and close relatives other than the immediate family.
- Birth places can tell you former residences and can help to establish a migration pattern for the family.
- Use the race information to find records related to that ethnicity such as records of the Freedman’s Bureau or Indian censuses.
- Use the naturalization information to find their naturalization papers in the county court records. It can also help you locate immigration records such as a passenger list which would usually be kept records at the port of entry into the United States.
- If they are subject to military service they may have military files in the State or National Archives.
- Occupations listed can lead you to employment records or other types of records such as school records; children’s occupations are often listed as “at school.”
Unable to Find Your Ancestor?
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Check for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
General Information About This Collection
Federal census takers were asked to record information about all those who were in a household on the census day, which was April 1 for the 1940 census. A census taker might have visited a house on a later date, but the information collected was supposed to have been about the people who were in the residence on the census day. The basic census enumeration unit was the county. Each county was divided into enumeration districts, one for each enumerator. The completed forms were then sent to the Census Office of the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C. The 1940 census covers 95 to 97 percent of the population.
Population schedules consist of large sheets with rows and columns. The schedules are arranged by state, county, place, and enumeration district. The districts are not always filed in sequential order. The arrangement of families on a schedule is usually in the order in which the enumerator visited the households.
The 1940 United States Census Population Schedules include: all states plus American Samoa and Guam, Consular Services, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The U.S. federal census has been taken at the beginning of every decade, beginning in 1790, to apportion the number of representatives a state could send to the House of Representatives. In the absence of a national system of vital registration, many vital statistics and personal questions were asked to provide a statistical profile of the nation and its states.
Federal censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care taken by the census enumerator. Realize that any family member or even a neighbor may have supplied information to the census taker. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.
|FHL Place United States items or FHL Keyword United States items in the FamilySearch Library Catalog. For other libraries (local and national) or to gain access to items of interest, see United States Archives and Libraries.|
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
Citations for individual image records are available for this collection. Browse through images in this collection and click on the "Show Citation" box: United States Census, 1940
When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
Citation for This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on FamilySearch.org Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.
- Bureau of the Census. "Population Schedules for the 1940 Census." NARA microfilm publication T627. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. : n.d.