Volunteers Needed to Index 1940 Census Records

MDAH is looking for volunteers to help create a finding aid for the 1940 U.S. census. The information gathered by the federal government for its decennial census is kept classified for 72 years before being opened to the public. On April 2, 2012, the data from the 1940 census was posted on the National Archives Web site. Although a wealth of information is now available to genealogists, there is no index of names for the 1940 census. This means a researcher must know a person’s address in 1940 to find their records.

MDAH is partnering with the genealogy group FamilySearch and local and state organizations across the country in the project to create a searchable database of respondents by family name. Volunteers with access to a computer and an Internet connection will download the simple indexing software and begin entering names, dates, places, and other information from anywhere, including home. When this project is completed, e-volunteers are encouraged participate in other record indexing projects that the department has undertaken.

“This opportunity for citizens to participate in this incredibly valuable project is exciting,” said Bob Dent, director of Government Records. “It will give people a chance to see familiar names of friends and families and give the department future indexing opportunities for the records in our collection.”

The federal census has been taken every ten years since 1790. Over time they have become a vital research tool for sociologists, demographers, historians, political scientists, and genealogists for the wealth of information they contain about the lives of Americans. In addition to standard questions about name, age, gender, race, education, and place of birth, the 1940 census also included new questions about employment status and occupation that reflected concerns about the Great Depression and document the flow of immigrants into the country.

Mississippi’s state archives has the 1820–1930 federal population censuses for the state on microfilm. Indexes for the years 1820–1870 are in book form, while the 1880–1930 indexes are on microfilm. (The 1890 census was destroyed in a U.S. Department of Commerce fire.) Other resources at MDAH include special censuses conducted by the federal government with information on agriculture, manufacturing, mortality, and slave schedules.

For more information about volunteering, click here for instructions, or email 1940census@mdah.state.ms.us.

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