Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Finding the Roll Number for the 1940 Census

If you’ve begun searching the 1940 census, at some point you’ll want to enter the information into your genealogy software and/or paper files.  As with any source, you should always have a citation.  For censuses, one of the citation elements (for the first full reference) is the NARA roll number.

If you’ve used censuses before on Ancestry, the roll number is easy to find on the summary page of the household ( see below).

It can also be found in the image view by expanding the right-side panel (see below).

Unfortunately, finding the roll number for the 1940 census on the NARA website is not so easy.  In fact, I think it’s non-existent (I sure can’t find it!!).  Nor have I been able to find the roll number on FamilySearch or Ancestry (they’re using a different image viewer for the 1940 census, but it still has a right-side panel with the source information, just minus the roll number). 

So how do you find the roll number for your source citation?  Below are three ways to figure out the NARA roll number for a particular Enumeration District.

  1. If you downloaded the entire Enumeration District from the NARA website, the file names for each image contain the roll number (see below).

  2. If you already know the Enumeration District, visit Steve Morse’s website and visit the page Finding ED Definitions.  Make sure 1940 is chosen in the heading at the top of the page, then select the state, county, and ED.  Click the search button and a description will appear that identifies the roll number.


  3. If you are in the process of searching for an Enumeration District on Steve Morse’s website, you can be proactive and obtain the roll number from the Unified 1940 Census ED Finder page.  Once you’ve found the ED (or EDs) you are going to search, select “1940 ED Description” from the box listed under the applicable ED number(s) and click on the link for the ED.  This will take you to the same page as noted in #2 above.  Make a note of the ED number and the roll number.


Have you found other ways to obtain the roll number?  If so, please share them in the comments.



Amanda Perrine said...

Thank you for posting this! I was going in a very time-consuming, round-a-bout way to find the roll number on the jpgs I had downloaded from NARA. This is so much nicer.

Sarah Boehm Davies said...

Thanks so much, Julie! Very helpful info.

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