If you’d told an American citizen in 1940 that one day the census from that year would cause a website server to crash, and officials had to defer to a PowerPoint presentation instead — well, he’d have been awfully confused.
On Monday, the 1940 census went online, enabling folks to search their family history. A census only becomes public after 72 years have passed, and this is the first census that has ever been available online. “There’s a little more excitement this time because it is being
released online and it’s immediately available to people,” Rebecca
Warlow, 1940 census project manager at the National Archives and Records
Administration, told the LA Times. “Anybody with Internet access can sit with their PC or
desktop and search to their heart’s content.”
Well… if they can get through. “In the first three hours, we had 22.5 million hits on the
site,” said a spokesperson for the National Archives and Records Administration. “We’re a victim of our own success. We’re working as fast as we can to fix the problem.”
Census Director Robert Groves was set to search his own family history at the opening ceremony, but the website crash deterred even him. Luckily, someone had the foresight to prepare a PowerPoint demonstration of how the site will work. When it, eventually, works.