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Genealogists see new challenges ahead

Ninety-two days and counting! That’s the number of days researchers will have to wait until the 1940 U.S. federal census becomes available. Federal law requires that each federal census is not made public until 72 years after the census was taken. The census day for the 1940 census was April 1, but because that date is a Sunday this year, and the National Archives is closed on Sundays, the official release will be at 9 a.m. EDT on April 2.

Genealogists wishing to find family members have some work to do before that date. On opening day there will be no name index to the census and therefore researchers will need to (1) make a list of all the persons to be searched, (2) determine the address for each person, and (3) determine the Enumeration District (ED) for each address, so that the persons can be found on that census.

According to Steve Morse in his article for the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (December 2011), the scanned census will be available to anyone with Internet access, free to all on opening day, but “there will be no name index. The only way to access the census will be by knowing the Enumeration District.”

His article, available at, should be read in order to determine which tool needs to be employed to determine an ED; the steps vary depending on whether the person being researched lived in a large city or rural area and whether that person’s ED was known on the 1930 census. (His easy quiz takes one through the steps necessary to determine the appropriate tool.)

Several companies have announced that they will provide the 1940 census free.’s parent company has partnered with the National Archives and will offer free digital access. Read of this project at The name and web address of the website will be announced at a later date. has announced, “both the images and indexes will be made free to search, browse, and explore … in mid-April.” When complete, “more than 3.8 million original document images containing 130 million-plus records will be available to search by more than 45 fields, including name, gender, race, street address, county and state, and parents’ places of birth.”

Rule change

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin was one of several U.S. senators that petitioned the government to limit access to data on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) in order to prevent fraud. This resource had been available free on many websites as an important tool to genealogists because it provides names and dates of birth and death.

Now the SSDI will not be available for persons who died within the past 10 years. Also, anyone wishing to receive a copy of a person’s Social Security application will have the names of parents blacked out unless the applicant’s birth year is before 1912 — 100 years.

Queries, as well as a general exchange of genealogical material that readers would like to share, will be printed in the column for free. Contact Joan Griffis by e-mailing

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