United States Census, 1940 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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Access the records: United States Census, 1940 .

Contents

Help Index the 1940 U.S. Federal Census

Record Description

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.

Record Content

The 1940 census includes the following genealogical information:

US 1940 Census DGS 5248643 39.jpg
  • Full name
  • Race
  • 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
  • Occupation
  • 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:

  • Name
  • State of residence

Search the Collection

To search the this collection you will need follow this series of links:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the state
⇒Select the county
⇒Select the representative district
⇒Select the enumeration district which takes you to the images

Look at the images one by one comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

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.”

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 Vital Records

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.

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Contributions to This Article

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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.

United States. Census Population Schedules, 1940. NARA. Federal Archives and Records Center. Washington D.C.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

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.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Examples for Records Found in a FamilySearch Historical Collection

Example of an Indexed Collection

“Delaware Marriage Records,” database and digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 4 March 2011), William Anderson and Elizabeth Baynard Henry, 1890; citing Delaware, State Marriage Records, no. 859, Delaware Bureau of Archives and Records Management, Dover.

Example of a Browsed Collection

“Argentina, Buenos Aires, Catholic Church Records, 1635-1981,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 28 February, 2012), La Plata > San Ponciano > Matrimonios 1884-1886 > image 71 of 389, Artemio Avendano and Clemtina Peralta, 1884; citing Parroquia de San Ponciano en la Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Matrimonios. Various dioceses throughout Buenos Aires.

  • “Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection” in Heading style 5 for a single citation
  • “Citation Examples for Records Found in This Collection” in Heading style 5 for more than one citation example

 

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