Good News About the 1940 Census and Michigan!

My mother and grandparents in the 1940s

Big news in the genealogy world! “Genies” are excited but you should be too.  In Ancestry you can now search by name for Michigan in the 1940 census. Previously you could only search by place and it was a pain. If you don’t subscribe to Ancestry, you can look at records in the library with Ancestry Library Edition.

Now it’s so easy to pull up a record for 1940 for Michigan. Here is how I found my grandparents:

1.  Go the 1940 census link in Ancestry Library Edition (or at home go to if you have a subscription.)
2. Click show Advanced Search.
3. Enter as much information as you know, you can always broaden your search later.
4.  I tend to change the settings under the last name to restrict to exact matches and restrict to this place only under location. You can horse around with the settings if you don’t get results.
5.  My search is: Clinton Whalen/Akron, Tuscola, Michigan, USA
6. Bingo! Up comes the record for my grandparents and my mom and aunt are little tykes. Very exciting!

I got a glimpse back into a possible conversation in history. The census taker started to write “Ja” in front of my mom’s name and then crossed it out and wrote “Mary J.” He must have asked grandma or grandpa what mom’s name was and they said “Janice”–he started to write –they probably said: “Oh, her name is MARY Janice but we call her Janice…” Always look at the actual census record, not just the summary, because the transcriber input “Jo” instead of “Ja.”

If your relatives are not in one of the states covered in Ancestry so far, don’t despair. States are being added rapidly in Ancestry with the expectation that the whole U.S. will be in the database by this fall. Other sites such as Family Search and National Archives Official 1940 Census Site will eventually have name searching. You can search the 1940 census by location. Go to our 1940 Census page for more information.

Classes are being offered at the library on genealogy:

– Anne R., Reference Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

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