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1940s Census at archives.gov

So a little background information. The law states that Census records must be kept secret until 72 years after they are first kept. The 1940 census took place starting April 1, 1940, so on April 1, 2012, the records were all put online. The National Archives, for the first time ever, scanned and digitized the entire census, putting it in an online database that's searchable by city and street (not yet by name).

Normally if you want to do something like this you have to pay a site like genealogy.com or something to use their private databases, but this one is public.

So far I have located both my paternal grandparents in 1940. They were both 18, living two blocks away from each other in their parents' houses, which was about two miles from the house I grew up in.

I found the house of my maternal grandfather, but strangely, only my great aunts are listed, and the four boys in the house are all missing. I thought it might have been the draft but that didn't happen until later, and my grandpa was only 15 at the time anyway. I need to call him and ask about that.

My maternal grandmother has been harder to track down. You can get to the 1930s search site, which is hosted by a private company, and they'll let you do a name search for free, and even tell you what enumeration district they lived in in 1930 cross referenced to the ED from 1940, but it turns out they moved out of what was a Polish immigrant neighborhood in Detroit to somewhere up north before returning to the suburbs in the 50s. Haven't tracked down where she lived yet.

I spent a few hours playing with it the other day, and it was a lot of fun. Seeing your relatives' names in the census books is just a blast from the past. It also lists a lot of other cool information like what job they had and how much schooling. I found out my grandfather's family was boarding a South Carolinian car salesman, and most of the boys in the family worked for an auto plant.

You can also see maps of your city from back then (handy for finding enumeration numbers of the city-search function doesn't list your city). It was cool to see the city I grew up in apparently effected a land grab on several cities around it, since the dimensions looked way different than they do today.

Anyway, it's free to use, and it was a lot of fun. You might get a kick out of it, and it might even spark a desire to spend some time with your family tree.

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I found that viewing it on Ancestry.com was better. It went smoother, and when I zoomed in on one page, it remembered the zoom on the following pages. The one at MyHeritage.com made me zoom every time.

I found my dad's family using the enumeration district finder at stevemorse.org. He was adopted as a child, and I wasn't sure if he would be listed with them, but he was. Yay!

I'm not even going to look for my mom's family until Illinois is indexed, as she lived in Chicago but she doesn't know exactly where.

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