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Census Bureau's Website Is Coming Back: 1940 Data Now Viewable

After a tough start because of huge interest that overwhelmed servers, the is showing signs of life.

Monday, as The Associated Press says, the website was "nearly paralyzed shortly after the records became available to the public":

"Miriam Kleiman, a spokeswoman for the archives, told The Associated Press that the site registered more than 22 million hits in just four hours on Monday from almost 2 million users. In a tweet posted after 5 p.m. on its official Twitter account, the archives said the website had gotten 37 million hits since the information was released at 9 a.m.

"The government released the records for the first time after 72 years of confidentiality expired."

But this blogger has been able to navigate through the site this morning to find his parents' records.

It wasn't easy. If you don't know the "enumeration district" for the records you're looking for, you need to hit the help button and do a search through the 1930 census records. For me, that turned up the enumeration district linked to the records of my grandfather.

Then it was back to the 1940 data. Plugging in the enumeration district produced a set of 36 pages for the old home town (it was and still is a small place).

And there, 13 pages in, were mom and dad — Arthur and Sara Memmott (both now deceased).

Close up of the 1940 census records for Arthur and Sara Memmott.
Close up of the 1940 census records for Arthur and Sara Memmott.

Any shocking surprises? No.

Their ages are correct. They were indeed married at the time, as they told us they had been since July 1939. Brother Ed hadn't yet been born (he came along in July, 1940). Dad had earned $1,700 the year before, teaching at the school in town. Mom had earned $810. If I have my family history right, 1939 would have been her last year of teaching.

One kind of amazing number: $20. That's what they were paying in monthly rent for the huge home they would buy a year or two later (for $2,500, according to my father).

The old Memmott homestead, which in 1940 you could rent for $20 a month.
/ Family photo
Family photo
The old Memmott homestead, which in 1940 you could rent for $20 a month.

So the folks were spending about 14 percent of dad's monthly income on rent.

Overall, just a little snapshot of the Memmotts just before World War II, before their six kids were born.

Happy hunting if you're also inclined to search the records.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.