Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

To Do This Weekend: Pore Over the 1940 Census

After 72 years, the 1940 U.S. census was released publicly this week, to a torrent of interest. Official government partner site got 22.5 million hits in the first three hours after it launched, and struggled to stay up.

Elvis Presley was five years old at the time of the 1940 census.

Given that the census far predated Facebook, Twitter and Girls Around Me, this is some of the only public information available online about many people who lived in the U.S. at the time.

Some of you who have a bit of spare time this weekend may want to load up the archives and look for relatives. U.S. residents who live in older houses can check to see who the former occupants were.

It really helps if you know a street address, and the ultimate reward is not terrifically dynamic: it’s just a picture of a handwritten list of names and demographic and occupational details.

Over time, this will get better-digitized and more searchable through indexing projects by various sites. For example, you can already search by name for residents of Bristol County, R.I., on the MyHeritage site. Once the massive dataset is organized, there will surely be all sorts of interesting analysis to be had.

But, for today, you can also play voyeur and look for celebrities — or just check out some of those already found, like Betty White, Johnny Cash, Chuck Norris (then Carlos Ray Norris), J.D. Salinger (Jerome Salinger), Elvis Presley and Albert Einstein. There’s an actively maintained Twitter account for the census put up by that rounds up lots of good finds here.

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First the NSA came for, well, jeez pretty much everybody’s data at this point, and I said nothing because wait how does this joke work

— Parker Higgins via Twitter