Getting Ready for the 1940 Census

What You Can Do Today to Get the Most from the 1940 Census on Ancestry.com

Who Do You Want to Find?

Start by drafting a list people in your family who are likely to be in the 1940 census. Census day was April 1, 1940, so look for people who were alive and residing in the U.S. on that date. Include cousins and siblings you know of, and jot down maiden names and places you think your relatives may have lived. Even without additional research, you may end up with a long list – or just a single person. Census records can be full of additional clues, so either is a great start.

Already have an Ancestry.com family tree? Use it to remind you of who would be alive in 1940.

Turning to Other Records

Whether you have plenty of 1940 search subjects or just one or two, you can use other records on Ancestry.com to help you learn more about your family in 1940 right now – and be better prepared to find your relatives in the 1940 census when it comes in April.

1930 Census. To dive into the 1940 census as soon as it’s available, you’ll need addresses. Look for them in the 1930 census, as well as additional family members who might appear in the 1940 census. Save the records to your Ancestry.com family tree to receive hints about those individuals once the 1940 census is indexed. You’ll find addresses in the first two columns of the 1930 census; rural addresses aren’t always included, but you will find county, town, township, and other residence-identifying information.
Birth, Marriage, and Death Records. Most birth, marriage, and death records will include both an address and names of other family members. Save records about individuals and details about other family members you find in your Ancestry.com family tree. Obituaries, even from the late 1930s, can include towns or even addresses for survivors.
City Directories. Ancestry.com has a collection of 1940s-era directories you can use to find exact addresses. Also look for names and other identifying factors, including occupations or employer, for other people who may appear in the 1940 household.
World War II Draft Records. Everyone appearing in the “Old Man’s Draft” of 1942, the fourth registration from World War II, which registered men between the ages of 45 and 64, should appear in the 1940 census, provided they were living in the U.S. on April 1. Check WWII draft registration cards for young men from North Carolina and look for clues in other 20th-century military collections as well.
Naturalization Records, Passports and Passenger Lists. Immigrant ancestors and those who traveled abroad may have become citizens or applied for a passport. Both types of records should include a home address. Also look carefully at passenger lists for 20th-century immigrants in your family tree. You’ll often find information about a friend or relative the immigrant was joining – possibly another member of the family to search for and another address to note.
Yearbooks. They’re not just fun to look at, they’re informative, too. Find your family members in one around 1940 and you may uncover the name of the town or township where your family lived.
Newspapers. Small town papers and some larger ones, too, may have included addresses for the subjects of their articles (plus they’re great reading).
Around your house. Scrapbooks can be goldmines when it comes to uncovering names, locations, and even addresses. Search for return addresses and postmarks on postcards and envelopes, turn over old photographs, and look for address clues in news clippings.

Be sure to add all the details you uncover and attach images of actual records to your Ancestry.com family tree. (Don’t have one yet? They’re free, and you can start one today by clicking on the Family Trees tab). Once the 1940 census is indexed, Ancestry.com will use information from your family tree to uncover Hints about your family members in the 1940 census and pass those clues on to you.

And remember: since the initial release of the 1940 census will not include an index, any addresses you discover beforehand will help you know where to look for your family in the 1940 census images.

Saving What You’ve Found

Remember to save everything. If you’re out and about, jot down what you learn about a new ancestor in a notebook and add the details to your Ancestry.com family tree later. You can even update or add a street address for an ancestor in your family tree by clicking on Residence on the Profile page.

Or add the address as a separate fact for 1940.

What Was Asked?

Want to know more about what you’ll uncover in the 1940 census? Download a blank 1940 census form today.