“It opens up a whole new period of people that we can find,” said Dottie Demarest, the local history and genealogy librarian at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library. “It’s very exciting in the genealogical world.”
The information will be released as 72 years of privacy protections are lifted, and it is expected to reveal details about the 132 million people who lived through the Great Depression. It will take at least a year before the raw data is indexed and searchable.
Genealogists rely on many documents for their sleuthing, such as deeds and death certificates. The census, first conducted in 1790, is one of the most comprehensive tools in finding links between relatives, said Becky Dozier, who tracked her family lines back to Colonial North Carolina. She does research for other families, including Augusta’s Phinizy clan. She recently helped a woman with her Daughters of the America Revolution application by tracking her relatives through several decades of the census.
The earliest census records provide only basics such as how many children the father had within a certain age bracket. The information really opens up around 1850, with place of birth
and names of children and parents.
“Each census gives you something different,” Dozier said.
Demarest said the best way to track family members in Augusta before the information is searchable is to find their names in the city directories available at Augusta State University, the downtown library and the library of the Augusta Genealogical Society.
With the address, a researcher can find the census district in which the family lived and possibly its census records.
“That’s about the only way to find them; otherwise you’re out of luck,” Demarest said.
The census will be released at the National Archives’ special site, 1940census.archives.gov.