Ancestry.com has announced that "both the images and indexes to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be made free to search, browse, and explore in the United States when this important collection commences streaming onto the website in mid-April 2012."
"When complete, more than 3.8 million original document images containing 130 million plus records will be available to search by more than 45 fields, including name, gender, race, street address, county and state. It will be Ancestry.com’s most comprehensively indexed set of historical records to date."
"Ancestry.com is committing to make the 1940 Census free from release through to the end of 2013."
As you may know this important resource will by released to public review on April 2, 2012--72 years after the enumeration was conducted. It is unlikely that every name indexes for the larger states will be completed until at least late 2012. Smaller states should be completed earlier. Until those critically important finding aids are available, eager researchers will be able to find ancestors only if they know exactly where the family members were living.
Steve Morse, Joel Weintraub and David Kehs have been busy breaching this gap. The result is another "One Step" search engine. To make sure you are ready for the big event you can now take their tutorial quiz "How to Access the 1940 Census in One Step."
I would encourage all of you to test drive this tutorial quiz now. Not only will it prepare you for the first few weeks or months until the every name indexes are complete, it will also introduce you to a tool that can continue to be useful if the indexes do not lead you to all those for whom you search.
For those of you attending the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim in June, 2012, there will be a program of interest on Sunday afternoon --- "Mining Gold From the 1940 Census."
Future family historians may look back at the 1940 Census as the high water mark in richness for their research. Subsequent enumerations rely on more statistical sampling rather than on recording all data on all individuals.