Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 Census - News From the Trenches

As we approach the noon hour on this historic morning of the official 1940 Census release by the National Archives, I wanted to document my experiences so far.....and share the one image I was able to download.

The morning began with anticipation tweets, a half hour press conference, and then tweets of frustration as very few people were able to download anything. It was clear the servers were just not up to the momentous task, and we all continue to wait for bigger servers, or at least for the rush to slow down for improved search results.

Having your enumeration numbers ready was a clear headstart since all portions of the NARA site were painfully slow. I had thought of another enumeration district I could look up while waiting, but even the maps and descriptions would not load for me.

By using the enumeration district you can search much quicker, and as you can see from the image below, they have the option of searching by either 1930 or 1940 ED. This can be very helpful if you have not done your homework ahead of time. has opened up their 1940 related documents until April 10th, which includes the 1930 Census. Since their servers are running much faster, just pop over there to get your 1930 ED while you wait!
Once I put in the search for my 1940 ED, I was taken to a results page that listed Map images, Description Images and Census Schedules. The Census Schedule is the NEW Census image which is the one we have been waiting for!
But alas, clicking on that link this morning is where people have been shut out almost completely. It times out, shows a broken link or an error. Hovering your mouse over the spinning wheel that appears to be loading something will give you a menu of "Quick View, View Full Screen or Download". As many have reported, going to full screen and then choosing "Download" seems to yield the best results. I opted for "Quick View" then "Full Screen" while in the Quick View, and then chose "Download" the one page only. After many tries at various combinations, I finally had my first real image at about 11:30AM. The winner for today was the first page of the ED 96-6 from Pendleton County Kentucky!
The surnames on this page are: Kidwell, Brooks, Record, Pribble, Shoemaker, Woodyard, Gilham, VanLandingham, Jett, McClanahan, Parr, Norris, Flaugher, Moore and Miller. Unfortunately, there are 18 pages for the 96-6 ED alone, so I will be taking a break from the action before I try for more pages. I had tried right away after this success, but was encountering the same problems as earlier - and a girl can only take so much spinning!

Some other news regarding access as of noon April 2nd: has won the access race so far. They received the images at 12:01AM and have been loading images for browsing since then. As of noon today, they had 11 states/territories available for browsing - and I must say, the images loaded very fast. I didn't even need an ED as there were drop-downs to let me choose state, county, community which then took me to an ED area for browsing. Very fast, and as they add more states, I will be using them for browsing unless the NARA system improves considerably. I think Ancestry is the dark horse today as most people will be flooding NARA and not bothering with Ancestry access - which means their less traffic will make for smoother sailing.
FamilySearch only has one state up for browsing as of noon: Delaware. Nice page for searching and progress, plus the images loaded very fast.....but with only one state by noon, Ancestry is winning!
MyHeritage has a lovely 1940 Census page exploring the culture and times, and announces that they will have content from the 1940 Census that no one else will: "See new unpublished records first - We'll be uploading data for US States that aren't yet available anywhere else, so you'll be the first to explore them!" However, as of noon, they have not posted any images from the 1940 Census.
Well that's it for now....I'm taking a break. Hopefully others will too and as the intensity slows down, so will the traffic, and things might get a chance to stabilize. This not a failure folks but a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone - from the server side to the user side! Can't wait for 2022 when the 1950 Census comes out! We will all have a good laugh about our 2012 access struggles :-)


Amanda (the librarian) said...

I wouldn't say is "winning the race." If they don't have the states you want, it's no good. I'm having some luck with NARA - got my mom (luckily in the first 6 pages of her ED) and was able to download ALL of my dad's ED!

Cheri Daniels said...

Oh I still think they are "winning the race" today since there are many people who have yet to access one image from NARA (individual results and download times vary). Zero results are not quite as good as 11, now 14 states with easy/fast access. However, they are playing in an unfair game. NARA has uploaded all at once with all eyes on them - which means 1.9 million people at once, according to recent reports. Ancestry is floating along and posting as possible with little traffic.

Great luck with your parents' results! I have only been able to get the one image from the state I want (NARA), and that has meant refreshing since 9AM. If Ancestry brings up Ohio or Kentucky I will be golden! Or, if NARA things settle down, things should work as predicted.


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