United States Census, 1940 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Collection Time Period
This census records individuals in the United States during 1940.
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 1940 census includes the following genealogical 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
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the census index. Use the locator information in the index (such as page number or family number) to locate your ancestors in the census. Compare the information in the census to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination. Be aware that as with any index, transcription errors may occur.
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.”
It is often helpful to extract the information on all families with the same surname in the same general area. If the surname is uncommon, it is likely that those living in the same area were related.
Be sure to extract all families before you look at other records. The relationships given will help you to organize family groups. The family groupings will help you identify related families when you discover additional information in other records.
Some other helpful tips to keep in mind are:
- Married family members may have lived nearby but in a separate household so you may want to search an entire town, neighboring towns, or even an entire county.
- You may be able to identify an earlier generation if elderly parents were living with or close by a married child.
- You may be able to identify a younger generation if a young married couple still lived with one of their sets of parents.
- Additional searches may be needed to locate all members of a particular family in the census.
You should also be aware that the census may identify persons for whom other records do not exist.
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.
Why This Record Was Created
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.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also 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.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Example of a Source Citation for a Record Found in This Collection
- “Delaware Marriage Records,” database and digital images, FamilySearch (: 4 March 2011), William Anderson and Elizabeth Baynard Henry, 1890; from Delaware, State Marriage Records 23 November 1913, no. 859, Delaware Bureau of Archives and Records Management, Dover; FHL microfilm 2,025,063.
- “El Salvador Civil Registration,” database and digital images, FamilySearch (: 21 March 2011), Jose Maria Antonio del Carmen, 1880; from La Libertad, San Juan Opico, Nacimientos 1879-1893, image 50; Ministerio Archivo Civil de la Alcaldia Municipal, San Salvador.
Sources of information for This Collection
United States. Census Population Schedules, 1940. NARA . Federal Archives and Records Center. Washington D.C.