1940 U.S. Census Data

April 2, 2012 by staff 

1940 U.S. Census Data, Tens of thousands of researchers across the U.S. are expected to go on a massive genealogical hunt as the 1940 U.S. census records are released online today by the U.S. National Archives after 72 years of confidentiality expires.

More than 21 million people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are still alive who were counted in the census, which documents the tumultuous decade of the 1930s transformed by the Great Depression and black migration from the rural South. It’s a distinction shared with such celebrities as Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman.

Today’s release includes digitized records for details on 132 million people. Access to the records will be free and open to anyone online. However, it is not searchable by name, just by location. Various genealogy groups are working to index the census by name.

Every decade since 1942, the National Archives has made available records from past censuses. The records, which include names, addresses and income and employment information, are rich with long-veiled personal details.

Some privacy advocates have opposed releasing such large amounts of personal information about living people.

The American Civil Liberties Union has for more than 30 years opposed any unrestricted release of census records.

Jay Stanley, a senior policyanlyst at the ACLU, said harm could come from combining the 1940 census data with other information.

“Computer technology today allows you to take information from different sources and combine it into a very high-resolution image of somebody’s life,” he said. “Each particular piece of information might just be one pixel. But when brought together, they become very intrusive.”

A document obtained from the National Archives by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that, in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau raised privacy concerns about the archives’ disclosure of the 1940 census.

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