The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will open the 1940 Federal census on April 2, in accordance with the 72- year restriction on access to census schedules. It will give genealogists and historians another important tool in deciphering our past. In particular, this census will provide a view of the Depression era and the people who lived through it.
The 1940 census gathered some new information about individuals that you will not find in earlier censuses. For example, the enumerator (census taker) indicated the person in the home that answered the census questions, documented each person’s residence in 1935 (to track internal migration), and also asked whether a person was working in one of the public works programs of the New Deal (WPA, CCC, etc.). There are also questions documenting employment and education that were not included on earlier censuses.
This census also includes supplementary questions asked of two people enumerated on preselected lines on the form. So, if a person that you are researching happened to be enumerated on one of the preselected lines, you will receive additional information regarding their lives.
The census will be available free of charge on a website that NARA and Archives.com have set up: www.1940census.archives.gov. Right now this site has an excellent video (with some great excerpts from a 1940 government film) that introduces the census.
The census is not indexed yet, so it will not be name searchable. You can, however, search by enumeration district number. Thousands of volunteers through a variety of institutions are expected to start indexing the census at the date of release. If you would like to help, check out this article.