The online debut of the 1940 census is now only three-and-a-half months away. At 9 a.m. Eastern on April 2, 2012, the National Archives will make the census available for research free of charge.

The upcoming release of the 1940 census is a classic good news/bad news situation. Good: we get access to those wonderful records and bad because they won’t be indexed (at first).

So how do you make use of the 1940 census before it’s indexed? With a little prep work, you can be all ready to go on 2 April.

Stephen Morse has put up a page on three ways you can access the census, depending on whether your ancestors lived in a big city, a rural area, or if they were still living in the same location as the 1930 census. Visit his page at to access the utilities for various addresses.

For more information about the 1940 census, including FAQs and information about the questions asked, visit their page on the 1940 Census Records.