The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 9, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Census data from 1940 valuable but tricky to find

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Family history researchers who haven’t checked the online digital images of the 1940 census are in for a treat. The National Archives and Records Administration recently made the records available for public use. The images are provided for free at

No index is available yet, but Family Search and are tackling the project and may finish in a few months. In the meantime, a search requires a bit of effort.

The folks at NARA have provided helpful directions. Even with their directions, however, if you don’t know the general area where an ancestor lived, your search at this time could be overwhelming and probably not productive.

After the website opens, click on “Start.” When the next screen opens, enter the name of the state and county (and city, if you know it) where your ancestor lived. Then click “Search.”

When the next screen opens, click on “Maps.” Next, place the mouse on the map on the right and choose “Full Screen.” When the map opens, move around the screen until you find the area where an ancestor lived. Record the township in which it is located.

If the map doesn’t include the area that you want, go to the top of the screen and click on “Next.” Check the next map and others until you find the area and learn the name of the township. After you learn the township, click on “Close” at the left of the screen.

When the next screen opens, click on “Descriptions of Enumeration Districts.” Check to see if your township is listed in the first set. You may need to click on “more” at the end of the list. If the township isn’t listed, click on “Close” and check another set of enumertion districts. Repeat until you find your township and its district.

After you learn the number of the enumeration district, click on “Close.” When the new screen opens, select the button for “Enumeration Districts” and enter the number in the blank. On the right, notice the box for “Census Schedules.” Click on it. When the next screen opens, click on the image on the right.

To find your ancestor, scroll down through the census page. To proceed to the next page, click “Next” (at the top of the page). Continue searching the pages.

When I checked the enumeration district 60-7 of McDonald County, I found the entries of my grandparents, parents and several relatives and their families.

One of the questions was whether the person had worked on a government project in the previous year and how long the person worked there. I learned that my grandfather and three uncles had worked for several weeks for the WPA, and my dad had worked as a powder man for the REA.

On each page of census records, two people were selected for supplementary questions. Those two sets of information are at the bottom of each page. Those questions might also provide clues for further research.

Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or contact: