Something is about to take place that only happens once and takes 72 years, truly a "once in a lifetime event." In just a few days, on April 2nd of 2012, the individual family records of the 1940 census will be unveiled and made available to the public. It will also be the first census to go almost immediately into digital format.
Genealogists spend a lot of time gathering vital records about our ancestors. This includes census data which often forms a foundation of knowledge about our family history. In some cases, the only records we have are from the census. Census data, though not actually a vital record, offers a great deal of insite into an individual's situation. In addition to the usual information, such as where they lived and the names and ages of those that made up that household, census records can also tell us about immigration dates, military service, occupation and land ownership. The census record also has its limitations. It is a snapshot and is only taken once every 10 years. Since a lot can happen in 10 years, its value must be put in that context.