MELBOURNE, Florida — The National Archives released the 1940 census to the public on April 2, 2012 after a mandatory 72-year waiting period. This website, designed and hosted by Archives.com, provides access to digital images of the census – more than 3.8 million pages. It offers a glimpse of what Brevard County looked like just before the outbreak of World War II.
Pictured above is a portion of the population schedule taken in Titusville, Florida which shows a high proportion of lodgers in family homes – a common practice in 1940’s Brevard and across the country at that time. While geographical mobility was on the upswing in 1940, the place of birth listed most often for people living in Brevard County were still from Florida and nearby southern states such a Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
The 1940 census was taken in April 1940 (official date was April 1, though entries were recorded throughout early April). The Federal government requires a census to be taken once every ten years for the apportionment of members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The first census was taken in 1790. Over the years, the format of census schedules changed and more questions were asked.
Census records are the only records that describe the entire population of the United States on a particular day. The 1940 census is no different. The answers given to the census takers tell us, in detail, what the United States looked like on April 1, 1940, and what issues were most relevant to Americans after a decade of economic depression.
The 1940 census reflects economic tumult of the Great Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal recovery program of the 1930s. Between 1930 and 1940, the population of the Continental United States increased 7.2% to 131,669,275.
There were also separate pages for people living in a hotel tourist home, or trailer camp – which were common in Brevard County, Florida. These people were to be counted on April 8th and 9th. Their census information begins on page 81A for each enumeration district. Sometimes the entries for people who were enumerated later and those in tourist homes and trailer camps are less than one page each, while they can go on for several pages in large urban areas. In some enumeration districts, there were no such entries and do not have a page 61 or page 81.
To search a particular area in Brevard, start here. Select Florida in the drop down box, then Brevard. Leave the city selection as “ALL.” Click on “Search” and a list of cities and towns in Brevard County will appear.