Now that the 1940 US Census is fully indexed online, Ancestry.com has all their US census records from 1790 through 1940 free online until September 3. If you’ve always wanted to look for your family’s census records, now is the time. You will need to sign up for a free account to be able to access the information, but once you have, you should have full access to all images and indexed records of those documents.
Each census is different, but the 1940 census records include:
- full name (as listed on the form)
- estimated birth year
- marital status
- relation to head of house
- home in 1940
- home in 1935
- links to the other members of the household
- a link to the original record, which gives some additional information about job and income
Some of those on the census even were asked supplemental questions—two people per page—and those give additional information on where their parents were born, their language, if they are a veteran, and for women, extra questions on marital status.
It is a good idea to check the link to the original record once you find it, especially if you find discrepancies between their spelling and yours. Often the handwriting of the census taker can be difficult to interpret for those not familiar with the names. Also, it is important to note that the birth date is only an estimation based on the age of the person at the time of the census, so it may be off by a year. If your ancestor is older than 40 years of age, it may be off by even more, as people were still only just starting to keep those sorts of records for themselves, and some immigrants were not even absolutely certain of the year of their birth when they came from a rural location, only their general age.
The site has also added a special feature they’re calling a Time Machine, which gives you a glimpse into what your family’s life may have been like in 1940. It asks you a few simple questions, and you can either answer with your own information, or if you want to, make up a character, then it plays a little video based on the information you chose. It also asks for an ancestor you know to be alive in 1940, and once the video has finished, you can search for that person in the 1940 census.
Some notable Washingtonians you can find listed in the 1940 census:
- Adam West – actor known best for his role in the 1960s Batman TV show, born in Seattle and listed with his parents and siblings in Walla Walla under the name Billy West Anderson.
- Dixy Lee Ray – the first female governer of Washington state, listed with her roommate in Oakland, California.
- Frank Herbert – author of the Dune books, among many other works, listed with his parents and sister.
- Ivar Haglund – founder of the Ivars restaurants, along with his wife.
- Judy Collins – folksinger, in the household of her parents.
- Richard Gordon Jr – astronaut, and one of the few people in the world to have flown to the moon, listed with his parents and siblings.
- Steven Hill – actor, best known for his role as Adam Schiff on Law and Order, listed with his parents and siblings under his birth name of Saul (Soloman) Krakovsky.
So who will you find in the 1940 Census? This week’s the time to look!