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I highly recommend it – The 1940 Census goes digital

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has many quotable lines. One of my favorites

If you have the means, I highly recommend it.  It’s so choice.

applies today. As a history geek, I love museums and archives. There is absolutely nothing like opening up a document box at an archive and pulling out a folder full of old documents. The smell. The feel of the paper. The sense of the history involved.

A couple years ago I was browsing through a box at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas doing some research on Sputnik and unexpectedly ran across a White House memo with a few sentences and signature from Dwight.

10 year old volunteers to be first astronaut under President Eisenhower's leadership

Like Ferris said

It’s so choice.

Primary docs are just too cool.

And while it’s not quite the same, online digital archives are still pretty awesome. The problem, of course, is that it’s very difficult to publish stuff online because of the massive amounts of scanning that has to happen.

So I am pumped that this week the National Archives is releasing the entire 1940s census online. Yesterday was technically the first day for regular people like you and me to access the data online but some many of us hit the site that we broke the internet. At least the part of the internet that lets me access the 1940s census data.

But it’s all good today. The site is up and running after apparently buying some extra squirrels to power their servers.

And it’s worth more than just a few visits. According to NARA:

The 1940 Census came at a momentous time in our Nation’s history — as we recovered from the Great Depression and not long before our entry into World War II. It was also the first Census that looked deeper into the details of much of American life. Now, 72 years later, upon release of the 1940 Census forms by the National Archives, we look back and see just how much America changed.

We invite you to explore our site to see how America has changed since the 1940s. We use compelling links, infographics, and photos to compare the 1940 Census with corresponding information about the 2010 Census.

You’ll find millions of records and images, comparisons between then and now, and the chance to touch not just the history of the US but the history of you. How cool is that?

You might to also check out the Ancestry.com version of the data. They purchased their own digital version of the NARA census info and are publishing it in a different format. They’ll make their entire 1940 Census records free through 2013.

Use the infographic below to help with your visits.

I highly recommend it.

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