From The Plain Dealer

It’s an event that’s been 72 years in the making, a milestone moment for genealogists, historians and ordinary people.

Next month, federal officials will throw open the vault of the National Archives and Records Administration and make public more than 4.5 billion pieces of information covering every American alive.

In 1940.

For the first time ever, officials at the National Archives, the caretaker of the nation’s federal records, are providing free online access to electronic copies of the original handwritten records that were filled out by 120,000 census takers as they walked house-to-house across the nation.

Our population then: 132.2 million — about 40 percent of what it is today.

The 1940 records – with names, addresses and dozens of pieces of demographic information about everyone — will be available online at 1940census.archives.gov beginning Monday, April 2, at 9 a.m. You’ll be able to download the results of your searches at no cost.

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