After a 72-year embargo the US Census department released the 1940 census data April 2, 2012. Hosted by Archives.com and the “first-ever on-line release” the site promptly crashed shortly after going live, unable to handle the 37 million hits in the first hours. Bolstered by new servers, the curious can now search records for favorite family members. Want to know if Great-grandpa was really a World War I veteran or Grandma’s family really came from Russia? As of this writing the data has not been indexed by name, but if you know where your family lived you can find their census forms.
The Census bureau website is more than a tool for genealogists though. Full of facts, figures, maps and more researchers can find economic data, historical perspectives and population trends. Try the interactive map to find the counties with the most convenience stores or the most day care centers. For students writing papers this is a useful and reliable source.
Why the 72-year gap? Congress enacted Public Law 95-416 in October, 1978 to protect privacy which means you can expect to see the 1950 census made public in 2022 and the 2010 census in 2082!