On April 2, 2012, the 1940 United States Census will be released to the public. In the States, they have a 72-year privacy mandate that allows private information taken during a census to be released no less than 72 years after the data has been documented. The following year, 2013, the 1921 Canadian Census will be released. Yes, that's right, in Canada; there is a 92-year privacy mandate. Apparently, we Canadians are a little more stringent with our privacy laws.
Either way, North American researchers will be revved up and ready to go by spring of next year. I know we have some time here, but don’t wait until the night before to prepare yourself for the next census. There are things you can do right now to prepare yourself.
You know what happens if you don’t get organized and prepare yourself, you will hop online the moment they are indexed and go live on Internet and then you will randomly start typing in every ancestor that comes to mind and grabbing those census documents. Will you look at them or just saved them to your shoebox for another time.....we've discussed this before, don't be a lazy researcher, that’s a no-no! Those census documents could tear down some brick walls. Here are a few things you can do now to get ready.
- Set some time aside to get yourself organized so you can make the most of this information once it becomes available. Add it to your to do list for this year, so you will be well organized when they are released.
- Make a list of all your direct line ancestors that you believe were alive in 1940. You can categorize them by surnames.
- Create a “Need to Know List” for each of those ancestors. You can create this in a word document, an excel spreadsheet, cue cards whatever method will be the most convenient to keeping you organized. List all the missing pieces that you don’t know about each ancestor, your "hot points" those key items that perhaps this census could answer for you. This will help you zone in on specifics for each ancestor.
- Create a second ancestor's list, this will be the indirect line and follow the same process.
- When your ready for the census, pull out your spreadsheet or cue cards for each ancestor and one at a time systematically seek out their 1940 census information.
- You can then record the information to the cue card or spreadsheet and then enter the information into your software database and your online tree.
Keep in mind the number of things a census can tell you, such as:
· It can provide a detailed family group picture particularly of siblings.
· It can establish a place and date for a person or family.
· It can reveal a place of birth and or age in light of an absent birth certificate.
· It can provide clues to immigration and naturalization status.
· It can establish an occupation.
· It connect a relationship between one or more persons.
· It can provide information regarding neighbours.
· It can reveal military service.
By preparing a list of ancestors, along with your "Need to Know" Spreadsheet or Cue cards you can be better prepared to not only find them quickly but also solicit any all information the census can provide.
A few other things to keep in mind
- Any children who were teenagers on the last census may be the head of their own household by the next census
- New children may have been born since the last census
- Elderly parents may now have moved back in with children
- Elderly parents may have passed helping you to focus in on a death date if you have yet to locate one.
- Prepare for the possibility that ancestors may have moved since the last census.
- Or perhaps a hired hand once living as a border is now married to a family member
Some may debate, a census is a more valuable genealogy document then a birth or marriage certificate, based solely on the amount of data it can provide us about an ancestor. Regardless of your views on that, we can agree it is certainly no less important.
So take some time, and prepare and organize your data for the next census so you don’t miss any opportunities.