U of M helping sort through 1940 census information

6:12 AM, Apr 3, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - For the first time in 72 years, The National Archives and Records Administration is making the 1940 census public. There were nearly 37 million hits in eight hours after the database went online Monday morning. That was enough to crash the website.

Once things calm down, users will find the site holds a wealth of information to help people expand on their family history. But the way the site is set up, you need to know the enumeration district your relatives lived in to find their information.

The good news is the University of Minnesota is collaborating with Ancestry.com, the United States Census Bureau and the National Archives and Records Administration to make this information easier to access by indexing it. After the data is indexed, it will be searchable by name putting a wealth of genealogical information at your fingertips. And that information is like none we've had access to before.

"1940 was an amazing census," said Steven Riggles, Director of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota. "It was the last year of the depression and because of the depression they added a whole battery of questions that are very similar to the questions we have on the census today."

There were questions about schooling, wages, how many hours a week people worked; in all, the census asked 62 questions to the 132 million Americans surveyed.

"Together we're going to create the world's largest population database that has ever been made available for scientific research," said Riggles.

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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