Northwesterners Look For Details Among 1940 Census Data

Apr 3, 2012

Americans are pouring over the newly released data from the 1940 Census. Demand was so high  Monday that the National Archives website crashed. But many people in the Northwest have an extra challenge in finding information about their relatives.

General demographic data from 1940 is already available. Portland State University census researcher Charles Rynerson says the new release allows users to look up information about specific people. Even a data researcher like Rynerson is planning to do that. "Looking at my own dad's census record is the thing that would probably interest me the most," Rynerson says.

Rynerson has it easier than many Northwesterners. He knows exactly where his dad was living in Portland back in 1940. But he says many in the region will be combing through records from places far from home.  "Lots of people in Oregon wouldn't have any relatives here in 1940," Rynerson says. "Fewer than half of Oregon's residents were born in Oregon."

Rynerson says the new data allows researchers to study changes in specific neighborhoods, since some demographic data was previously available only on a city-wide basis.