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1940 Census Records Available April 2nd

The imminent release of the Sixteenth Decennial Federal Census (1940) is generating a lot of excitement among family historians and history buffs alike. Census data serves as a critical source of demographic information; state populations affect federal aid to states as well as the number of representatives to Congress. While every census provides a unique snapshot of its time, information collected in the 1940 Census is expected to illuminate the life of a nation climbing out of the Great Depression, on the verge of entering World War II, and well into the unparalleled presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) plans to provide free online access to electronic copies of the original handwritten records from the 1940 U.S. Federal Census on April 2, 2012.

The U.S. Census Bureau is responsible for collecting the decennial data, while NARA preserves census and other Federal information. Why the long wait between a designated census year and its public release?  Known as the 72-year rule, this is the period of time the Census Bureau determined that it would not release any personal information about an individual to any other individual or agencies. Thus, data from the 2010 Census will not be publicly available until 2082.

Keep in mind that because of the way the Census was organized (geographically by enumeration areas), researchers need to know roughly where a person lived to find an individual’s information. Volunteers will soon be in the process of compiling a name index.

Locally, for those wanting assistance with the 1940 Census, online access and special research help will be available at the Western Reserve Historical Society Library as well as the Cleveland Public Library’s History and Geography Department.



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