United States Census, 1940 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States Census, 1940 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United States
United States flag.png
Flag of the United States of America
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Seal of the National Archives
Record Description
Record Type Census Population Schedules
Record Group RG 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007
Collection years 1940
Microfilm Publication T627. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. 4647 rolls.
Arrangement Alphabetically by state, by county and enumeration district
National Archives Identifier 16660414
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
National Archives and Records Administration

What is in the Collection?

Index to the population schedules of the Sixteenth Census of the United States,1940. The collection is part of Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. The schedules cover the 48 states as well as Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The census will identify the place of residence on April 1, 1940 for each person counted. The index was created by FamilySearch, BrightSolid, and Inflection.

For a list of records by localities currently published in this collection, select the Browse.

Collection Content

The 1940 census includes the following information:

  • 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 Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • Name
  • State of residence

Search the Collection

To search the 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.

To browse by image:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒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 wiki article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Next?

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.”

What if I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

  • 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.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.
  • There is also the possibility that a family was missed in the census.

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.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"United States Census, 1940." Database with Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication T627. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for United States Census, 1940.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United States Census, 1940.