The 1940 Census

This morning the National Archives released the census schedules for the 1940 census. 72 years after each census, the government sends all that information into the wild. For a genealogist, this information is gold. Right now all it’s not searchable. In order to find someone in the census, a person has to know where they already are. Either that or stumble on them among the 132 million records released in image form. Which isn’t completely impossible. I ran into one relative while looking for another. But if you don’t know where they are, it’ll be a huge fishing expedition. Over the next few months, a few genealogy sites will be creating indexes and it will be searchable before too long.

Luckily, I know where a few people would have been in 1940.

Unfortunately, the main release of the records was a disaster. is operating the official National Archives site, which is the only site that had all the records for the public, releasing them at 9 a.m. The site promptly fell over. It wasn’t until about midnight I could access any census schedules on it.

In the meantime,,, and all got a hard dump of the images at 12:01 a.m. They’ve been putting them up since then, but it takes a bit of time to get them prepped and tagged by location. Ancestry loaded up Washington, D.C. first so they could tout that they found F.D.R.’s census record. Then they added a few territories and Nevada. I assume that’s because those places are sparsely populated and they could test their systems for classifying and loading the images. Then they added Indiana and Maine. Most of the family I’ve researched lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Washington in 1940. However, I did find a couple of distant relatives in the first couple of states. They are now working California, New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island.

FamilySearch is loading their states in a different order. I don’t remember what they’ve done, but when I first looked they had Colorado up. As a number of great great aunts and uncles in the Ryan branch moved to Colorado from Wisconsin. I was able to find all of the Colorado ones because either they lived in a small rural area that was easy to scan through, or they hadn’t moved since the 1930 census which gave me an address for them.

I haven’t yet looked at what has loaded up.

Around midnight, the official site got something working, and I could use it to access Washington records. I decided to look for Otto, Othelia, and Vera Hallin, my grandmother and her parents. I knew Gram grew up in Snoqualmie, and it’s not a huge place: two census districts comprising 44 images total. Pretty easy to scan through. I was slightly worried they hadn’t moved there by 1940. However, Gram was 11 by then, and she didn’t talk about spending a lot of time in their previous house in Skykomish, so my guess was they were already in Snoqualmie.

The first enumeration district I looked at (17-183) didn’t have them. It did have Otto’s brother Sivert Oman and his family though. I’m not surprised to find one of his family in the same town. They were all loggers mostly and Snoqualmie was a logging town.

Otto was on page 6 in the second enumeration district for Snoqualmie.

1940 census district 17-182 of Washington, page 6, Otto Hallin excerpt
Otto, Othelia, and Vera Hallin in the 1940 census

Did I learn anything new about my grandmother’s family? Not really. But I do get to fill in details of their lives. I didn’t know they’d lived at least briefly in Everett. One set of columnns asked where folks lived in 1935. I’d always assumed they went from Skykomish straight to Snoqualmie. Othelia’s occupation is owning and running a restaurant. I only vaguely recalled that. From his job at the lumber mill, Otto made $1,740 during 1939, which is about $27,000 in 2010 dollars. Othelia doesn’t report any wages for her business; presumably any profit didn’t count as wages. Otto was either sick or got some vacation or leave, as he only worked 48 weeks out of 52. Othelia worked all 52 weeks.

And now I need to lay off the genealogy for a couple of days, as I have stuff to do.

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