Volunteers Index 2.2 Million 1940 Census Records
Genealogists are having a much easier time using Mississippi’s records from the 1940 U.S. census thanks to a recently completed index. Volunteers—organized through a partnership with the genealogy group FamilySearch and local and state organizations across the country—have created a free online database of the state’s records by family name.
On April 2, 2012, the data from the 1940 census was made public for the first time and posted on the National Archives Web site. There were more than 2.2 million records from Mississippi alone. However, there was no index of names for the census, which meant researchers had to know a person’s address in 1940 to locate their records.
“This project was a total success,” said Bob Dent, director of MDAH’s Government Records section. “It was the first time we had volunteers working offsite. They were able to work at home at their own pace. We’re looking forward to doing more indexing projects like this in the future.”
The federal census has been taken every ten years since 1790. Over time these records 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. The information gathered by the federal government for its decennial census is kept classified for 72 years before being opened to the public.
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, contact Bob Dent at 601-576-6806 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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