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1940 Census

How to Order

Use Form Number NATF 82 to order individual pages of Federal population census schedules, 1790-1940, used for genealogical research or as evidence of age and place of birth for employment, social security benefits, insurance, passports and other reasons.

Census Records

What Census information can I get on this website?

We do not have census records online on the National Archives website. However, we do have the microfilm catalogs online, which can help prepare you for your visit to the National Archives.

Ancestry.com and Heritagequest.com have digitized many of the Federal Census records. These websites are subscription-based, but access is free-of-charge and unlimited from any National Archives facility.

An index to current articles, biographies, bibliographies, and critical analyses of more than 120,000 authors from every age and literary discipline on a variety of topics, Ancestry Institution is also available at any National Archives facility. Many references include the complete article (full-text). Of particular interest will be the following databases:

Start Your Research of Census Records

Introduction to Census Records

The name of your relative or ancestor, and the state he or she resided in, is enough to get you started searching Census records.

The first Federal Population Census was taken in 1790, and has been taken every ten years since. However, data from recent censuses are not available after 1940 because of a 72-year restriction on access to the Census. Most researchers find it most helpful to begin with the 1940 Census and work backwards to locate people in earlier generations.

The National Archives has the census schedules on microfilm available from 1790 to 1940. (Note: Most of the 1890 Census was destroyed in a Department of Commerce fire, though partial records are available for some states.)

What can the Census tell me?

Census records can provide the building blocks of your research, allowing you to both confirm information, and to learn more.

From 1850 to 1940, details are provided for all individuals in each household, such as:

  • names of family members
  • their ages at a certain point in time
  • their state or country of birth
  • their parent's birthplaces
  • year of immigration
  • street address
  • marriage status and years of marriage
  • occupation(s)
  • value of their home and personal belongings
  • the crops that they grew (in agricultural schedules), etc.
Tip: Begin with the most current census year available and work backwards. With the 72-year restriction on access to the Census, the most current year available is 1940.

Not all of this kind of information is available in every census. Before the 1850 Census, few of these details were recorded. From 1790-1840, only the head of household is listed and the number of household members in selected age groups.

For specifics on what information was collected in each census year, see Availability of Census Records About Individuals

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