The questions which were asked of all were generic, and consistent with previous census enumerations of the previous 150 years: location, was the residence owned or rented, its value, and was it part of a farm, the name of each person who resided there as of April 1st, 1940, and the relationship of each person to the head of the household. Additional questions were asked about sex, color or race, age at last birthday, marital status, education, place of birth, and citizenship status. There were several questions about employment status and income.
The supplementary questions were asked, as indicated above, of only those individuals who appeared in the record on Lines 14 and 29. These supplementary questions solicited the individual name, birthplace of parents, language spoken in the home, veterans status, Social Security information, occupation, and information specific to women.
All of these things combined to make the 1940 Census one of the most thorough ever attempted by the United States government. The immediate result of the census was to allocate additional representation in the United States House of Representatives, based upon population increases in specific states.
By law, the private information contained in a U. S. Census can not be released to the general public for 72 years. This stipulation is designed to protect the privacy of individuals within the course of their natural lifetimes. The last census to be released for public use prior to this was the 1930 U. S. Federal Census, which was released in 2002. Family history researchers were thus anxiously awaiting the release of the 1940 Census.
In April 2012, the 1940 U. S. Federal Census was released for publication. Thousands of volunteers had helped to make the census available and accessible on the Internet by digitalizing each of the many thousands of pages which make up the enumeration report. The census can now be read via Internet sites, to include the one located at Ancestry.com. The reader can go to this location, and if not a subscriber to the site can enroll in a 14-day free trial. The link to enroll is prominent on this page. Also readily visible is the link to the 1940 Census, located in the upper right-hand corner of the site's home page. Click on the link 1940 U.S. Census Is Here and a new Window will open with the heading "America's 1940 Census Is Here."
Review this page carefully for some interesting photos and facts about the 1940 Census. Do NOT type any information into the blank form boxes which are available, however. Instead, after looking over the page, locate the smaller link entitled "See The 1940 Census Now" which is located about half-way down the page, on the right-hand side, in green text. That link will take you to yet another Windows page where you will be able to browse the entire 1940 Census, page by page. This area is entitled "Standard Browse (by township)"
Here's an example of how to use this very effective tool:
- In the blank box under "State," use the arrow at the right side to scroll down to "Ohio" and click.
- In the blank box under "County," use the arrow at the right side to scroll down to "Champaign" and click.
- In the blank box under "Township," use the arrow at the right side to scroll down to "Rush."
For those of us with North Lewisburg heritages, let's use that link as an example.
- If you are a subscriber to Ancestry.com (either a regular subscriber like me, or you have signed up for the 14-day free trial) the link will take you to a viewer which will display Page 1 of 20 pages which constitute the 1940 Census for North Lewisburg. You can see that Nellie Downs started her enumerator duties on April 4th with the household of Robert Kennedy, age 28, his wife Hazel, age 27, and their daughter Nancy, age 2 months. She completed this page of the document at the 16th residence she visited, the household of Marion Cowgill, age 69, and wife Laura, age 68.
- Now look at the bottom of that first page of the 1940 Census for North Lewisburg. See the two individuals who were singled out (Lines 14 and 19) on that page? Bertha Westfall, a housewife, answered supplemental questions. And, I was very surprised to see when I first opened this page that my eldest sister, Charma Lee Conard, (Line 19) was likewise singled out for these questions! Glancing back up to mid-page, I could easily see the records for residence 12, the household of Leonard Conard, age 29, his wife Kathleen Conard, age 28 (my mother!), and my siblings, Charma Lee Conard, age 6, David Conard, age 4, and Norma Conard, age 2.
- By clicking on the arrows at the top of the image page, it is easy to scroll on to Pages 2 - 20 of this document. Taking your time, you should easily be able to read down the household names to find your 1940s-era relatives.
If the reader is interested in reviewing the documents for North Lewisburg, Woodstock, Fountain Park, or the outskirts of these areas, just make use of the Enumeration District links as indicated above.
The task will become a great deal easier in months to come as volunteers continue to INDEX all of the names which appeared in the nationwide 1940 Census. This is a slow process, as there were more than 132 MILLION inhabitants of the United States at that time. Currently (May 6, 2012) only the following areas have been totally indexed: Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Nevada. Other states will follow over a period of time, and the browsing pages at Ancestry.com will be updated on a regular basis. In the meantime, there are "browsing tools" which have been incorporated into the process. If the reader is aware of the voting district, or address of 1940s era relatives, these browsing tools will prove to be very helpful.
If the reader has an interest in family history research, or ancestry, or the make-up of the "old hometown" in 1940, you owe it to yourself to take the time to peek at the 1940 U. S. Federal Census.
Kudos to the many, many volunteers and professionals, and to the National Archives in Washington, D. C., who have all worked together to make this vital census available to us!