When the 1940 U.S. census is released on April 2, 2012, there won't initially be any searchable indexes. Just hundreds of thousands of digitized pages, containing approximately 132.2 million names. I think you will agree that is a bit too many pages to browse through one at a time, so to start your 1940 census research you will need to know an individual's address and the Census enumeration district (ED) in which that address was located.
Find a 1940 Address
To locate an individual in the 1940 U.S. census you will first have to determine where they were living at the time.
- City Directories — If they lived in a large city or town, then historic city directories or phone books may help to identify a 1940 address.
- Family Letters & Photos — If the individual lived in a small town or rural area, or city directories aren't available to you, then records created by the family around that time may provide clues to their location. Investigate the back of family photos, letters and envelopes, and family documents (marriage certificates, passports, newspaper clippings, etc.).
- World War II Draft Records — The fourth registration of the WWII draft ("The Old Man's Draft"), which registered men between the ages of 45 and 64 in 1942, generally includes a street address. These records are available online at Fold3.com (subscription), Ancestry.com (subscription), and FamilySearch.org (free). Some records of younger men from the other WWII draft registrations are also beginning to be put online by Ancestry.com, beginning with North Carolina.
- Immigration Records — Naturalization petitions, declarations of intention, passenger lists, passport applications, and other immigration records created close to 1940 are all likely to include an address.