1940 Census Launch Sputters

Months of anticipation lead to frustration as the Census records from 1940 fail to materialize online as expected.

By: Cragg Hines

The digital release of the billions of details in the 1940 federal Census got off to a slow start today.

Neither Archivist David S. Ferriero nor Census Bureau director Robert Groves got a live search to work at a rollout press conference, so a National Archives staffer went to "Plan C" and called up the copy of a family search that each official had completed before the official 9 a.m. start time.

Some other searchers were also having trouble, getting nothing but a whirling timeout icon at the single official site, 1940census.archives.gov. "Keep refreshing. People are getting in," advised a blog posting from the National Archives and Records Administration.

John Spottiswood, executive vice president of site host Archives.com, touted worldwide availability of the massive database to millions of family researchers: "We just hope not all at the same time." He may not have gotten his wish.

Spottiswood said it might take time for the Amazon cloud system the site is using to accommodate all users. About three hours after the launch, the Archives blog advised: "We are working with Amazon to get the site up to speed."