New York was the most populous state in 1940 with over 13 million residents. It’s not surprising it has taken longer than some other states to be made searchable in the 1940 Federal Census. Considering it’s importance, it’s also not surprising that it has been indexed early in the process compared to some other states.
Ancestry.com has just made their index for New York available online, after previously only having Delaware, Maine, Nevada and the District of Columbia available. None of the previous states had more than a million residents in 1940 (Nevada had just 110,247 residents), so the jump to New York is actually quite a large one, and certainly a very important one for Jewish researchers.
In 1940 there were nearly 5 million Jews in the US (a much higher percentage, 3.7%, of the US population than currently), and New York was home to more than 2 million of them. In fact, over 90% of those Jews lived in just New York City. Statistically speaking, if you had Jewish relatives in the US in 1940, chances are some of them were living in New York.
As there were many Jewish refugees streaming into the US in 1940, keep in mind that your family would have to have been living in the US at midnight at the beginning of April 1, 1940 in order to be recorded in the census. My grandfather actually arrived in the US by ship on April 1, 1940 and thus should not have been recorded (and as far as I can tell was not) because he arrived some hours after the midnight cut-off for being recorded in the census. The census wasn’t recorded all on April 1, 1940, but rather one of the questions asked by the enumerators was where you were living at midnight at the beginning of April 1, and if you were not living in the US then, then you were not recorded. This is true also of children born on April 1 – they were not recorded (or at least should not have been according to the rules).
Of my relatives that were already living in New York when the census was done, I’ve noticed that their names were transcribed wrong. There are always going to be transcription errors in such a large project, but I wonder if this is a result of Ancestry.com’s rumored use of transcribers in China to do all the work. It should be interesting to see how well the 1940 US Census Community Project does their transcriptions, and if the quality will be higher than the Ancestry.com transcriptions. With over 100,000 volunteers, redundant transcribing and an arbitration process, it certainly seems the community project has an advantage, but we’ll have to see when the databases are completed. Right now the only state that overlaps the two efforts is Delaware, so perhaps if someone had relatives in Delaware in 1940, they could comment on the quality of the two transcription efforts.
The good news is that even with the transcription errors, Ancestry.com still found my relatives due to their soundex search capabilities. If you know your relatives were living in New York on April 1, 1940 and can’t find them, however, try varying your search a bit and maybe that will help. I do strongly recommend that when you see transcription errors, you add a correction to the record. If you add the correct spelling, then future searchers will be sure to find the record. To correct a transcription, click on the ‘View/Add Alternate Info’ link in the Page Tools box on the left side of the record page.
For those trying to figure out where their relatives came from in Europe, the 1940 Census has a great addition to previous censuses, in that it asks where they lived in 1935. Both the city and country are listed, so if your relative moved to the US between 1935 and 1940 then this should show where they were living before they moved to the US.
States fully indexed, by company:
Ancestry.com: Delaware, Maine, Nevada, New York, District of Columbia (see status of other states – shows Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia coming soon)
- Community Project (search on FindMyPast.com): Delaware, Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Virginia, and New Hampshire – and partial indexes of other states (see status of other states on FamilySearch)
MyHeritage.com: Rhode Island and parts of New York
|1940 US Census Page from Durham, Maine
Above is a census page from the 1940 US Census. Officially the images are not supposed to be released until 9am Eastern (six hours from now) by the US NAtional Archives, so I’m not sure how this is possible. It would seem the National Archives has been sharing the images early to allow companies to get them up faster. The above image is from Ancestry.com’s site, which somehow has a small number of images from DC, Maine and Nevada up already.
The 1940 US Census is being released today. The official launch is at 9:00am Eastern Time. There will be a live webcast before the launch at 8:30am. If you can get through, the official site for the census is http://1940census.archives.gov/.
Since I wrote about it last time, genealogy company MyHeritage has announced that they will also be indexing the 1940 Census images and providing free access online. They join Ancestry.com and the Archives.com/FamilySearch.org/FindMyPast.com consortium (The US Census Community Project) in indexing the census.
So now all the 1940 census record sites you should know about are:
The official National Archives site: http://1940census.archives.gov/
The US Census Community Project: https://the1940census.com/
Ancestry.com’s 1940 Census: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2442
and of course, Stephen Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder.
One interesting thing about the 1940 census is that is was the first census to have a census time, not just a census day. In other words, in the past the census was recorded based on what the state of the population was on April 1, but in 1940 the census enumerators were instructed to base their information on midnight, April 1, so if lets say a baby was born on April 1, 1940, they won’t show up in the census (since they were not born by midnight). In a strange twist of fate, I have another interesting example in my family – my great-grandmother, grandfather and great-uncle all arrived in the US by ship on April 1, 1940. If the enumerators followed the rules, they shouldn’t be in the 1940 census. I’ll have to wait until the images for New York are up to find out, however. Another great-uncle should, however, be in the records as he arrived earlier. Any strange stories in your family connected to the 1940 Census?
It only happens once a decade. Seventy-two years after the 1940 US Census was recorded, it is being released to the public. Unlike previous years where it was released on microfilm and took a long time to digitize and then index, this time the census is being released fully digitized. You should be able to see census pages on day 1 (April 2), although no index exists so you will not be able to search by name or address. The work on such an index will only start on April 2, 2012 when the files become available.
There are at least two efforts to index the 1940 Census records, one by Ancestry.com, and another by a consortium called the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project, which includes FamilySearch.org, Archive.com and FindMyPast.com.
It is unlikely that a full index will be completed by either group before at least six months from now, and probably longer, but there is a way to find the enumeration district (ED) for your relative which is the neighborhood that the census enumerator recorded.
Stephen Morse and Joel Weintraub have collaborated to create a number of useful tools that help you figure out which enumeration district you should be looking for, and when the images are released you will be able to locate which images are from the enumeration district you are looking for. To get started with these tools, use the quiz page on Stephen Morse’s site. If your relatives were already living in the US in 1930 and didn’t move by 1940, you should try to find their census records from 1930 which will help in figuring out the correct ED in 1940.
Be sure to go to Stephen Morse’s site before April 2, as it will likely be difficult to reach on April 2 and for some time afterwards. Find the EDs of all your relatives who lived in the US in 1940 now, and then on April 2 you will be able to go directly to the census images and find your relatives using the EDs you already found.