You’ve been hearing about the 1940 census from several organizations that’ll be hosting the records, and all that information coming at you from various sources might seem confusing.
To help you digest all those details, I’m summarizing and simplifying them here into what you really need to know about where the 1940 census records and indexes will be. Here it is:
1. On April 2 at 9 a.m., the only place you’ll be able to find online 1940 census records for the entire country is 1940census.archives.gov. This website was made possible through the National Archives’ contract with genealogy company Archives.com.
2. Shortly after the initial release, other websites will begin adding the records as fast as they can. Those include:
- MyHeritage websites myheritage.com/1940census, worldvitalrecords.com/1940census and familylink.com/1940census
3. For the first week to several weeks after April 2, the only way to find your ancestor’s 1940 census record will be to browse by enumeration district.
4. Three separate projects to index these census records by name will begin ASAP after the records are released:
- the 1940 Census Community Project, organized by FamilySearch, Archives.com and brightsolid (owner of censusrecords.com)
The 1940 Census Community Project is recruiting volunteers to do the indexing; Ancestry.com and MyHeritage are using paid contractors to do their indexing work.
5. Each site will add its index one state at a time, as states are completed. No site has specified the order in which states will be indexed, so at this time there’s no telling when a particular site will add your ancestor’s state. It could be weeks or months before a given site posts the index you need (so you’ll want to check all the above sites periodically).
6. Ancestry.com is completing its index in two phases: a basic name index to be released first on a state-by-state basis, then a more-detailed index with additional information to follow. This means you may have access to a searchable basic name index for your ancestral state earlier on Ancestry.com than on another site.
7. Watch out for sites that try to charge for access to 1940 census records. There is no need to pay for 1940 census records. They’ll be available online, free, at the sites mentioned in No. 2.
Get help finding your ancestors in the US census with these resources from Family Tree Magazine:
- Family Tree University course Finding Ancestors in the US Census: Online and Offline Strategies. This course is just $39.99 for the April 30 session only—a $60 savings off the regular price!
- The Genealogist’s Census Pocket Reference
- Online Census Secrets On-Demand Webinar