Collaboration with Ancestry.com to create comprehensive database of 1940 census

April 2, 2012

Practice, Research tools

1940 Family

Today, the National Archives and Records Administration released images of the enumeration manuscripts from the 1940 Census of Population. A collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Ancestry.com will use those sources to create the largest database of detailed information about people and their households ever made available for scientific research.

1940 census posterThe Minnesota Population Center will leverage a substantial investment by Ancestry.com in digitizing information on the entire population of the United States in 1940.

The database will include all of the information collected on the 132 million Americans recorded in the 1940 census. The project entails transcription of 7.8 billion keystrokes of data describing the demographic and economic characteristics of all individuals, families, households and group quarters present in the U.S. in 1940. This database will be an extraordinary new resource for economists, demographers, geographers, epidemiologists, other social science and health researchers, and the general public.

The 1940 census was far richer and more detailed than any previous census. Many of the core concepts of today’s American Community Survey — such as educational attainment, migrations status, labor force status, wage and salary income, hours worked per week, weeks worked last year, and veteran status — made their first appearance on the census that year.

The critical timing of the census at the end of the Great Depression and beginning of World War II makes this database an important baseline for studies of social and economic change in the 20th century.

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