On April 2, the National Archives released the complete set of data from the 1940 census. While some census information is made available every 10 years, a statutory 72-year restriction prevents the government from releasing full information until those 72 years have passed.
The 1940 census officially took place on April 1, 1940, though counting continued through the rest of the month. In the census, individuals were asked for basic information such as place of residence, age, level of education, occupation and citizenship. Five percent of the population was also asked supplemental questions about family history, social security and occupation.
Over 133 million people were counted during the 1940 census. The census is currently not indexed by name, which means that in order to find a specific person, you would need to know where that individual lived during 1940. The census information is organized by enumeration districts, which are geographic areas determined for the purpose of taking the census. The enumeration district in 1940 for Hope College and the immediate surrounding area bounded by 8th Street on the north, 13th Street on the south, Lincoln Ave. on the east and College Ave. on the west, for example, was 70-19A.
Many of the cottages currently owned by Hope were built prior to 1940 but not owned by the college at the time, so the census data makes it possible to find information on the families that once lived in these homes. Several cottages have been moved from their original location, however, so the current address of the house may not have been its address in 1940.
There is an amazing amount of demographic data available through the US Census, and now with the full 1940 census available online, it is a useful source for finding historical information on your family and on your residence.
— Bethany Stripp, Library Student Blogger