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Family Tree Friday: The 1940 Census and Social Security

by on January 20, 2012


With the growing hype surrounding the upcoming release of the 1940 Census, it has come to the attention of Archives staff that some misinformation may be starting to appear regarding what type of information you will find in the census and how it will be searchable.  One such tidbit that recently showed up online alleged that researchers will be able to search the census by Social Security number.  This is NOT true!  Our resident census expert, Archivist Connie Potter, explains in the following guest blog:

There are no Social Security numbers in the 1940 census. In the supplemental schedule, the 1940 census asked three questions about social security on lines 42-44; none of these questions asked for the social security number.

Column 42 asked “Does this person have a Federal Social Security number? Answer “yes” or “no” for every person 14 years of age or older.”  According to the Instructions to the Enumerator it did not make any difference whether 1) a person knew his or her Social Security number or 2) had lost his or her card. (Instructions, p. 77)

Column 43 asked: “Were deductions for Federal old-age insurance or railroad retirement made from this person’s wages or salary in 1939?”  Answer “yes” or “no” for every person 14 years of age or older.

Deductions for Federal old-age insurance were made from money wages or salaries (up to $3,000) received in all kinds of private (nongovernment) employment except agriculture, railroads, charitable and other nonprofit organizations, employment as sailors and in domestic service at the home of the employer. (Instructions, p.78)

Column 44 asked: “If so, were deductions made from (1) all, (2) one-half or more, and (3) part, but less than half, of wages, or salary?”

So, although the census asked questions about Social Security, the census never asked for a person’s Social Security number.  Read the published Instructions to the Enumerator in greater detail.

Find out more about the 1940 Census release on our website, and follow updates  using the 1940 Census Category here on NARAtions!


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