1940 Census; Day 1

This has been an amazing day for genealogists. The National Archives released the 1940 census and more important is that it was going to be online for free. Family Search had received copies of all the images at midnight and by 8:30 (all times eastern) they already put up all images for the State of Delaware. That time (8:30) was when the Archives started an online broadcast before the opening of the records. The official 1940 census website started showing web pages at about 8:50 and I was able to open a census image at 8:55. Then I tried to open a second page and it failed. The US Archivist, David S. Ferriero, tried to view a census page at about 9:02 and the website failed for him. He had to have a staff member show a previously downloaded image of his family. During a question and answer period at about 9:25, ‘Dear Myrtle‘ said that she was getting emails from people in Sweden that were able to access the website. Sweden has one of the fastest average internet connection speeds and that might be the reason why they were able to get access when I couldn’t. The rest of the day I couldn’t get any census images to appear.

The Ancestry Insider has been posting updates throughout the day. He works for Family Search and says that the first indexing projects will be sent out this evening. He also says that the National Archives had 37 million hits between 9 a.m. and 5:17 p.m.  They had only expected about 10 million in the first 24 hours.

Meanwhile; by 9:30 this morning Ancestry had complete access to the census images for Nevada and DC. They have been adding images all day. One really odd place that they uploaded was the Panama Canal Zone. That is one place that I wanted to look at. My great-grandfather had a couple of extra families (it’s a long story) and I wanted to find Homer Halsey that was in the Army at Fort Amador. I found him! Homer only shows up in the 1910 census and then he joined the Army about 1914. He can’t be found on the 1920 or 1930 census but he finally shows up in the 1940 census. That record says he was single but in fact he was married in 1936 and I will probably find his wife living with her parents in Wisconsin.

Sometime after lunch Family Search had added the images for the State of Virginia and I was able to find some distant relatives in a rural county. I only had to ‘scroll’ through about 50 pages for the whole town.

So by 10:00 p.m. Family Search has images up for Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Oregon and Virginia. Ancestry has images up for Delaware, District of Columbia, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Panama Canal Zone. Ancestry is making these images available for free but you still have to have an account to view the free images. For the most part, the official 1940 census website is mostly not working. ‘Dear Myrtle’ has this posting that explains how to download the records rather than view them online. I tried and it worked for me. We will see what tomorrow brings.