Yesterday, the National Archives released its records of the 1940 Census. And that’s a big deal because census records remain sealed for 72 years. So historic researchers, genealogists and family history buffs rejoice, you can now track down information on who lived where and what they did in 1940. Census data has certainly been useful to us in our research and in our advocacy.
Since 1790 the United States has recorded data on its population in a census and it has been done every 10 years since then. The 1790 Census counted the population of the original 13 colonies as well as Kentucky, Maine,Vermont, and Tennessee. Less detailed than those that would come in the future, the 1790 Census asked for the name of the head of household, but was only interested in the number (not names or any specific information) of persons in the household within the following categories:
- Free White males of 16 years and upward
- Free White males under 16 years
- Free White females
- All other free persons
By 1820 the census began tracking foreign born residents and the 1840 Census started documenting employment. Over the years the census has captured more information for each individual in the household including their names, ages, occupation, year of immigration, marital status, and the value of their homes.
The 1940 Census is particularly meaningful because of its timing – 10 years after the Great Depression and at the beginning of World War II. The 1940 Census also tracked detailed information about the housing of respondents including whether it was owned or rented, how it was heated, and if it had running water. You can access the 1940 Census at the National Archives.
If you are interested in learning more about how to research a building you should read this post. We’ve also accumulated a good deal of information and our own research about the neighborhoods we advocate for on our resources page. And, if you’re a true history buff you won’t want to miss our upcoming lecture about the Yellow Fever Outbreak of 1822.