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In 1940, Americans were recovering from the Great Depression and on the brink of entering a world war. The recently released 1940 U.S. Census gives us data snapshots of people and families poised between two of the most devastating world-wide events of the 20th century.
After you locate someone in the 1940 Census (on Ancestry.com), use that information to find records on Fold3, especially within the World War II Collection. Then build their personal histories with images and other details you've discovered.
Examples of what you might find include:
- "Old Man's Draft" Registration Cards. Any man between the ages of 43 and 62 in 1940 would be required to register in 1942. It's called the "Old Man's" draft because it was a registration of an older generation with skills that would be useful on the home front, not in military action. (Hint: You can also use the addresses on these cards to help you search for people on the census before the index has been created.)
- Missing Air Crew Reports recount riveting tales of planes shot down with and without survivors. Some of these reports include names and addresses of family members back home, as in this example for the men in this crash report.
- War Diaries are official Navy accounts of command units' strategies and actions in battles on land, sea, and air, as well as between engagements.
- European Theater Army Records. Shortly after the 1940 census, millions of Americans were serving in Great Britain and Europe. These records include virtually all administrative and strategic documents relating to U.S. operations in the European Theater during World War II.