The 1940 census is coming!


Just days remain until Monday – the day the 1940 census becomes publicly available to family history researchers (and just plain curious folks) for the first time.

There is much to do in preparation.

Covering what Tom Brokaw has named “The Greatest Generation,” this rich genealogical record must be indexed in order to truly be a useful ancestry tool. Being released as raw-form digital images on the National Archives Web site, the records can only be searched by knowing the enumerator district in which a loved one lived. Even then, names must be searched individually to eventually find a family member.

Like other census records, however, once indexed, this peek into an incredible time in U.S. history will reveal information not found in previous releases. An effort to do just that is underway. And volunteers are being recruited to help with the work.

According to, “Upon its release, the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project, a joint initiative between, FamilySearch, and other leading genealogy organizations, will coordinate efforts to provide quick access to these digital images and immediately start indexing these records to make them searchable online with free and open access.”

Indexing involves transcribing every name for a computer-searchable index. Tedious maybe, but with enough volunteers, many hands will make quick work.

“We’re looking to add approximately 100,000 more volunteers to enable us to do the 1940 census in a timely fashion,” stated FamilySearch’s Don Anderson, who expects about 500 genealogical societies nationwide to join the effort. But anyone can help. No previous experience or group membership required. In other words, you can help!

To find out more about the 1940 census, visit and learn how to get involved by indexing or even blogging. Indexing practice exercises are available now.

With most of us having living family members found on this census record (the largest one released so far), what great dialogue could result from delving into the statistics covered in this unique record? We’ll only know if the transcribing work is done. Soon.