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How to search the 1940 census records online

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April 2, 2012 03:07 AM EST | AP

NEW YORK — Personal details of 132 million people will be disclosed on Monday as the U.S. government releases the 1940 census to the public for the first time after 72 years of privacy protection lapses.

Access to the records will be free and open to anyone on the Internet, but it will be several months before it becomes name searchable.

In the meantime, researchers will need an address to determine a census enumeration district – a way to carve up the map into 147,000 geographic areas for surveying – to identify where someone lived and then browse the records.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to find records in the census:

1. To start, you'll need to know the address or approximate address of where the person or people were living by April 1, 1940.

Sources to find addresses include birth, marriage and death certificates; diaries; employment records; photographs; scrapbooks; Social Security application information; telephone books; or the 1930 census.

1. Using the address, you can then identify the enumeration district, a two-part number separated by a hyphen.

1. Once you have the enumeration district, you are ready to browse the census records.