If you’ve been searching for your family history, the search just got a little bit easier. For the first time ever, the results of a US census are available online and can be accessed by and shared with anyone on the internet.

Every ten years, a US census is made available to the public. But, the information in the census is decades old, because there is a mandatory 72-year waiting period before a census can be made public. Even so, census information is usually helpful for people who are attempting to trace their geneology.

This year, the US census from 1940 was set for release, but the National Archives and Records Administration did something a little different. They have put all of the census records online and made them accessible by anyone with an internet connection. And, the pages can be downloaded and shared via social media.

Rebecca Warlow, the 1940 census project manager at the National Archives and Records Administration said, “There’s a little more excitement this time because it is being released online and it’s immediately available to people. Anybody with internet access can search to their heart’s content.”

Records aren’t searchable by name, but if you’re looking for a relative and you know approximately where they lived, you can find out who the census taker in their area was and search all the handwritten notes taken by that person. Once you’ve tracked down who you’re looking for, you can find their name, age, address, marital status, number of children and sometimes even their occupation and how much they earned.

This census might also be a little more interesting to people today because it was taken as the US was coming out of the Depression, which is something we all feel a little closer to after our recent economic troubles. Also, according to census officials, of the 132.2 million Americans counted in 1940, 21 million are still alive.

Take a look at a video explaining this exciting new development in the annual Census below.

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