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Genealogical Society to Celebrate Release of 1940 Census Data

Open houses April 14-15 will feature 1940s music and memorabilia, and participants are invited to dress in costume

By Glenn Avolio for the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society |

The Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society will host a public open house and 1940s-themed costume event to celebrate the April 2 release of the 1940 U.S. census data.

The open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 14 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 15 at the Sahyun Genealogical Library, 316 Castillo St. in Santa Barbara.

The release of the 1940s census data is to genealogy what the appearance of a comet is to astronomers. The U.S. census is taken only every 10 years, and the information is kept under lock and key for privacy reasons for 72 years. The 1940 census asked 34 general questions and another 31 housing specific questions, collecting for the first time a statistical base regarding the quality and condition of the nation’s housing stock, including statistics on in-house plumbing and lighting and even a question on whether the household had a radio.

This is a treasure trove of information for those who want a window into the lives of their relatives who were alive in 1940.

Remember the census is primarily all about “location, location, location.” Census records not only tell us where our people were living every 10 years — which tells us which county will have records, newspaper articles, etc. — but by looking throughout the census, beyond just our families, we get a sense of who was living nearby. All good stuff for understanding where we come from and who we are.

Please join us for this fun and informative event, which will include 1940s music and memorabilia, and attendees will be welcomed and encouraged to dress for the occasion, but visitors do not need to be in costume to participate.

Volunteers will be available to assist the public in locating their enumeration districts and in searching the census data for family members. Participants will have a better chance of finding relatives if they come armed with their best information on the 1940 locations or addresses related to their search.

The Genealogical Society is also participating in a national “crowdsourcing” project, which will share the huge task of indexing this vast volume of data and make it more easily accessible to anyone researching family history information. The SBCGS has adopted Santa Barbara County for indexing, and anyone interested in participating in this worthwhile effort can contact Dorothy Oksner at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Come join us. You do not need to be a member to take part.

Click here for a calendar of local genealogical events. For more information, email Mary Hall at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), with “1940 census” in the subject line.

— Glenn Avolio is public relations chairman of the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society.

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