Server capacity and downloading issues plague National Archives’ release of 1940 census
Lish Thompson was looking forward to finding her dad on a census for the first time. The Charleston County Library genealogy expert tried several times Monday, but gave up around 7 p.m. without ever getting to see a single page.
Earlier Monday, genealogists such as Thompson counted down the seconds to their first viewing of 1940 federal census pages. The census, kept under wraps for 72 years by law, has details on the lives of ancestors living just after the Great Depression.
However, loading problems caused widespread frustration among the family historians, including experienced researchers such as Thompson.
On Tuesday, Thompson saw a small portion of a census page on the website, but it became garbled as she scrolled through it. Eventually, she found her dad, T. Bissell Anderson, a 1-year-old living at 157 Wentworth St. in 1940. But it took quite a bit of effort and patience.
“It was mind boggling,” Thompson said. “It was the most frustrating thing. I worked on it for an hour and a half.”
She is among an untold number of people experiencing a high level of frustration trying to view the census.
Miriam Kleiman, a National Archives and Records Administration spokeswoman, said the agency widely publicized the release of the 1940 census but did not anticipate having such a high response level.
“Within the first three hours on Monday there were 22.5 million hits,” Kleiman said. “Within the first three hours on Tuesday, there were 63 million hits. The numbers were huge.
“We are working around the clock to add more servers and to correct the downloading problems,” Kleiman said. “We are quite frustrated, as we know the public is.”
Pat Kruger, president of the South Carolina Genealogical Society’s Charleston chapter, tried all day to gain access through the National Archives website, but gave up on NARA and turned to Ancestry.com. While it had not yet posted pages for all of the states she needs to research on its website, she made some progress.
“If Ancestry had not been up yesterday, my efforts would have been worthless,” Kruger said.
There are 3.8 million digitized census images with personal information on 132 million Americans on the website. The 1940 census was ranked No. 1 among Hot Searches on Google trends. It is the first census to report who provided information to the census taker, a key factor in assessing the reliability of the information.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.