When you research your family tree, one method to fill in gaps of information is by searching census records. The United States has conducted a federal population census every 10 years since 1790. Information in the records includes the names and ages of family members, where they were born, the street address, marriage status, occupation and the value of their home. The government will release digital images of the 1940 census on April 12, 2012 for public research. They are not publicly available before that date because of privacy laws. Until then, you can request census data from 1940 only if it is about yourself, or if you are a blood relative in the immediate family of a deceased person named in the census.
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Things you need
- Application for Search of Census Records form PDF file
- Adobe Reader application
- Certified copy of death certificate if person is deceased
- Check or money order
Go to the U.S. Census Bureau's Age Search Service website (see Resources). Click on the "BC-600" link to download a PDF of the "Application for Search of Census Records" form to your computer.
Double-click on the PDF file to open it with the free Adobe Reader application, which is often pre-installed on computers. If you don't have it, go to the Adobe site (see Resources), download the reader to your computer, and then double-click on it to install it. Click on Adobe Reader's printer icon to print the document.
Write your name and contact information in the designated area on the application, and mark the check box next to the purpose for your request, such as "Genealogy," or "Proof of Age." Write the full name of the person whose census record you are requesting, along with other information that you know, such as a nickname, maiden name (if applicable), place of birth, names of parents, marriage details and names of siblings and other relatives.
In the "Place of Residence" section, write the street address and the name of the head of household. You have the option of drawing a map of where the person lived, showing physical features, landmarks and other details that may help the Census Bureau locate the person's record, which is stored in microfilm.
Sign the application, noting that the person whose record you are seeking is either yourself, or if it is a deceased person, that you are an immediate blood relative, surviving spouse, administrator or executor of the estate, or a beneficiary by will or insurance. Put the signed application in an envelope along with a certified copy of the death certificate (if applicable), and include a check or money order for the search fee; the amount is listed on the application. Send it to the address designated on the application. It normally takes three to four weeks to process an application.
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