What Was Your Neighborhood Like in 1940?

The National Archives released 1940 census records, lifting the veil on details for Americans living through the Great Depression.
by | April 2, 2012
 

The National Archives released 1940 census records this morning, lifting the veil on details for Americans living through the Great Depression.

More than 132 million people completed the 1940 census, an estimated 21 million of whom are still alive. The U.S. Census Bureau keeps the individual records confidential for 72 years. Beginning today, researchers can track down incomes, employment and other information for those living in the 1930s.

The release marks the first time the National Archives has published digitized records online. Thousands of volunteers scanned millions of pages to build a database.

The database is not searchable by name, though. You’ll need to know the approximate address of where a person lived to look up their record.

Once you have the address, find the corresponding enumeration district using the National Archives’ guide. Then, use the enumeration district number to search the records.

The system is likely to be slow today, though, as the records were just released. Records for prior years are available at libraries throughout the country.

Want to know what life was like in your community back then?

The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research collected and categorized 1940 census records. We’ve compiled select data into the tool below.

Select a county to view population totals, income and other demographic information:

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