02 April 2012

1940 Census Release: My Thoughts From Day 1

As my research hours come to a close for 2 April 2012, I thought I would post my initial thoughts on the 1940 US Census roll out from today.

It was a big day. It was a big thing to try to do. Imagine, putting all of the images online, all at one time, and saying "Go!" I know many people complained about the overwhelmed system at the National Archives, but I personally found the day to be rather successful. Here's why.

  1. The National Archives gave us a chance to be productive, even if we couldn't get to the images. By creating a user profile for the site, I was able to "bookmark" all the Enumeration Districts that were high on the list. So just finding it in the site, and saving it for later, I felt like I was making progress. It just means that future searches will be that much more efficient for me. 
  2. I was up early. Right at 9:00am EST when they turned the switch, I was on the site, and was able to download a few images. It was enough to keep me interested and motivated during the rest of the day. Maybe I was lucky in this regard, I know many people didn't see an actual image until much later in the day. It did mean that I was up at 6:15am my time, but I feel that it was worth it. Dedication, people! :-)
  3. The updates on Twitter and Facebook from the folks at the Archives kept me informed. I think this was probably the reason why I kept trying all day; I liked that they were obviously concerned about their audience, and wanted to keep us update on how they were trying to resolve the issues. Not a lot of detail, but just enough to satisfy me that things were going to improve, relatively quickly. 
  4. Social Media! Woo-Hoo! I actually had a great time this morning on Twitter, just chatting about the census and being involved in the genealogical community. Up here in the mountains of Colorado, they're are not very many history & genealogy buffs for me to talk to, and my husband is getting tired of me talking about what was happening in 1940, so it was nice just to see how others were responding and have conversation. Although there were many negative comments about the backlog on the 1940 site, it was great to see the positive messages and encouragement to our friends at the Archives. 
  5. The partnering sites, especially FamilySearch.org, were able to get a handful of states up and going. A few hiccups on my first search, but after that, FS ran very smooth. I was able to find my first two names via FamilySearch, and it felt like the waiting during the day was worth it. Ancestry.com was also moving quickly, and although they have yet to load any states that are helpful to me at the moment, their progress was impressive. 

My Disappointment.

The most significant disappointment to me today was first thing this morning. Cup of coffee in hand, ready to watch the live feed of the opening from Washington D.C., and the stream wouldn't work for me. I had to settle with still photos posted on Twitter from other viewers. Although this was a bummer, it actually allowed me to beat the crowd to the images initially, so in the long run, it worked out to my benefit. 

I will continue to filter through FamilySearch and Ancestry as they add more images, and try the National Archives again later tonight or tomorrow. Hopefully, I can get to Keya Paha County, Nebraska and Orting, Pierce County, Washington, today. Those are my "I'm so excited!" locations. Some of the images I have found so far are already posted on my blog, maybe it will help somebody. 

Soon I will have to switch modes from genealogist to Mommy, and that's perfectly ok with me. Making memories today is what she will value as an adult. History happens every day, in many ways, and today we all got to be a part of it, just by witnessing the release!  


  1. I have (so far) not been able to download or see any images. The McGowans should be on 68-25 in Birmingham. (block 43). Hopefully will be able to see soon. Still trying!

    1. Well thanks for the ED for them... Hadn't managed to get that yet. Whoever finds them first - share? :)


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