Popularity Of 1940 Census Bogs Down Website
April 4, 2012

Popularity Of 1940 Census Bogs Down Website

Millions of people who tried accessing the 1940 Census records on Monday were unable to because the popularity of the information weighed down its servers too much.

The National Archives and Records Administration said that in the first three hours of launching the Census, it had 22.5 million hits on the site.

"We're a victim of our own success," National Archives and Records Administration spokeswoman Susan Cooper told the Los Angeles Times.

CBS News reported that those users who were able to get through on the website would wait 20 minutes and longer for a page to load.

When the information is not being overwhelmed by traffic, the public can search through the records of over 132 million people living in the U.S. in 1940 for free.  The data was available for 72 years because of privacy laws.

Newsday reported that the National Archives and Records Administration worked with archives.com to put 3.8 million images from the 1940 Census online.

The organization said that the official website was getting 100,000 hits every second, according to @1940sCensusNews Twitter account.

Among the release of 132 million individuals is presidents Ronald Reagan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The website shows that actor Ronald Reagan, and his wife, actress Jane Wyman, reported incomes of over $5,000 a year and had a home worth $200,000.

President Roosevelt's occupation is listed as "President of the U.S.A." and had an address of "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

The information collected by the census in 1940 included a person's address, age and education, the names of the adults and children under their roof, whether their home was owned or rented, and the value of their home or rent.

In 1940, there were 5.1 million farmers, while today's Census shows there are 613,000 famers in the U.S.

Twenty-three percent of the population during 1940 listed their occupation as manufacturing, while 19 percent were in agriculture.

About 132 million who took part of the 1940 Census, compared to the 309 million people who answered questions for the 2010 Census.

Also, just five percent of the population had college degrees in 1940, compared to nearly 30 percent in the 2010 Census.

The Census also reveals how the population moved from more northern states to southern states.  In the 1940 Census, the most desirable places to live was New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.  Now, the most heavily populated states are California, Texas and New York.

Racial diversity has grown since the 1940 Census as well, with 0.4 percent of the population being listed as "other" and white and black making up the majority.  Now, the percentage of white people in America has dropped 7.4 percentage points, while black has grown nearly 3 percentage points, and the Asian population holds 4.8 percent of the American population.

The 1940 Census included 34 questions, with an extra 15 questions for the smaller subset chosen at random.  The current Census only consists of 10 questions.

Jeanne Bloom of the Chicago Genealogical Society, compared the releasing of this information to a major sporting event.

"It's kind of like the Super Bowl for genealogists," Bloom told NPR. "I locate living family members of soldiers that were missing in action during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam [and] whose remains were never recovered, identified and returned to the family."

Robert Gellman, a privacy and information consultant, told the Associated Press that he doubted the records would be of much value to crooks.

"There's nobody out there complaining about 70-year-old records being used against them," he told The AP.

The 1940 Census is now back online, and its 3.8 million images and 4,000 rolls of "microfilm" are ready to be sifted through.