1940 Census Project

On April 2, 2012 the 1940 U.S. Census will be released online to the general public. In preparation, staff in the Photographic Imaging, Microfilm and Textual Preservation Lab have been working with archival units to digitize the records related to the 1940 Census, which consists of portions of three microfilm publications:

  • A3378: Enumeration District Maps for the Twelfth Through Sixteenth Censuses of the United States, 1900-1940
  • T1224: Descriptions of Census Enumeration Districts, 1830-1950
  • T627: Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940

Digitizing portions of these publications will produce approximately 3.25 million digital images. The lab is currently producing reproduction master files for this project: Textual Median - Grayscale [TXT-R2] files scanned from the microfilm publications mentioned above. The main quality factor for these images is legibility of the scan.

Enumeration districts are divisions that the Census Bureau creates and assigns to enumerators, or census takers. Among the records being digitized are maps showing the 1940 enumeration districts and textual descriptions of the district boundaries.

Over 70 volunteers transcribed the enumeration district boundaries from T1224 into an electronic text format. This data includes such information as state, county, city, street names, enumeration district number, and institutions, and will function as search and retrieval keywords for researchers accessing the digitized material in 2012. Researchers will be able to use this geographical information to locate the particular enumeration district that they are interested in, and then view images of the Census schedule and maps associated with that enumeration district. The schedules list all the names of people living in that area, along with other information of interest such as nationality, birthplace, salary, occupation and marital status.

Verification of the geographic data is complete; scanning and indexing of the Census images are underway. This marks the first time that a U.S. Census will be digitized and made available online by NARA. For more information, see NARA’s 1940 U.S. Census webpage.

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