1940 Census Federal Population Schedule

An estimated 87 percent of Americans today can connect with at least one relative in the 1940 Census. Because of privacy laws that protect identifying information for 72 years, the 1940 Census is the most recent census in which records can be researched in detail.

Overview of the 1940 Census

The sixteenth United States Census officially began on April 1, 1940 and took just over a month to complete.  The total population recorded was 132,164,569.  The official cutoff for enumeration was 12:01 a.m. on April 1.  Therefore, births that occurred after this date were not included.

1940 Census Facts

  • 1940 Census Number:   132,164,569
  • 1940 Census Day:  April 1, 1940
  • 1940 Census duration:  1 month
  • 1940 Census States: 48 States
  • 1940 Census Territories: Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands

Questions Asked in the 1940 Census

Click to View Sample from US 1940 Census of Dawson County, TX
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Click to View Sample from US 1940 Census of Dawson County, TX

Some of the questions answered by the 1940 census included:

  • Location
    • Address
    • House Number
  • Household Data
    • Home value and whether owned or rented
  • Name of each person whose usual place of residence on 1 April 1940 would be in the household
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Personal Description
    • Sex
    • Color or race
    • Age at last birth
    • Marital condition (Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced)
    • Age at first marriage
  • Education
    • Attended school within the year
    • Language or dialect spoken  (before coming to US)
    • Highest grade of school completed
  • Place of birth
    • Each person and his or her parents birthplace
    • If United States give State or Territory
    • If foreign birth give country in which birthplace is now situated
  • Citizenship
    • Year of immigration into the United States
    • Naturalization
    • Ability to speak English
  • Residence on 1 April 1935
  • Employment Status
    • Employment status for those 14 and older (several questions)
    • Occupation and number of weeks worked full-time in 1939
    • Income in 1939

1940 Census Resources

You may find the following resources helpful in your research of the 1940 census data.

1940 United States Federal Census database at Ancestry.com consists of all individuals enumerated in the 1940 Census, the Twelfth Census of the United States.

Additionally, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to actual images of the 1940 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Download Free a US 1940 Census Extract Form which allows you to read column headings and record information from the US Census.

Unique Features of the 1940 Census

Sampling

The 1940 Census contained some questions that were not asked of every person counted.  These extra questions were only asked of about one of every twenty people to provide a data sample.

These questions included:

  • birthplace of mother and father,
  • native language,
  • veteran status (including widow or minor child of a veteran),
  • Social Security details,
  • occupation, industry, and class of worker,
  • marriage information for women (married more than once, age at first marriage, number of children).

Government Workers

The 1940 census categorized government workers as either “private or non-emergency government” employees or those who performed “public emergency work.” 

Public emergency work included employees of the Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and the National Youth Administration.

 

Historical Considerations of the 1940 Census

Urbanization

The 1940 census recorded the urbanization of America with great detail.  One question asked where the person lived 5 years prior and whether or not it was on a farm. Workers were categorized by occupation, industry, and class. 

Perhaps one of the most revealing indications of urbanization was the recording of persons who lived in “hotels, tourist or trailer camps, missions, and cheap one-night lodging houses (flophouses).”

Women

Women were given more attention in the 1940 census.  The enumerators asked women if they had been married more than one time, their age at their first marriage, and how many times they had given birth.

10 Largest Urban Places in 1940

Rank Place Population
1 New York City, NY 7,454,995
2 Chicago, IL 3,396,808
3 Philadelphia, PA 1,931,334
4 Detroit, MI 1,623,452
5 Los Angeles, CA 1,504,277
6 Cleveland, OH 878,336
7 Baltimore, MD 859,100
8 St. Louis, MO 816,048
9 Boston, MA 770,816
10 Pittsburgh, PA 671,659

Interesting Facts

  • The top five foreign countries listed as a birthplace were Italy, Germany, Russia, Poland, and England.
  • New York was the most commonly listed birth state.
  • The average household size enumerated in the 1940 census was 3.7 people.
  • Two women tied for the oldest person in the census: both Mary Dilworth of Oxford, Mississippi, and Cándido Vega Y Torres of Guayama, Puerto Rico, listed their ages as 119.
  • Mary and John were the most common given names appearing in the 1940 census.
  • The top five surnames in the 1940 census were Smith, Johnson, Brown, Williams, and Jones.
  • More than 850,000 people reported living in hotels or similar housing.

Historical events surrounding the 1940 US Census

  • December 7, 1941 - Japanese warplanes attack Pearl Harbor, marking the entrance of the United States into World War II. 
  • February 19, 1942 - President Roosevelt issues an executive order for the interment of all American residents with Japanese ancestry. 
  • March 5, 1946 - Winston Churchill delivers his “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. 

States Covered in the 1940 Census

1940 Census Map
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1940 Census Map

The 1940 census covered the 48 states as well as Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Panama Canal, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

What was lost from the 1940 U.S. Census?

No major loss of records for the 1940 census.

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