People typically turn to the Internet to get the most up-to-date information, but people this week were so eager for data more than 70 years old that they crashed the system.
The data were digitized copies of the 1940 census records, made available for the first time. Historians had been champing at the bit for weeks waiting for the data to be available on April 2.
"We apologize for the problems you have encountered with the 1940 census web site and share your frustration," noted the National Archives website. "We have seen extraordinary demand for the 1940 census records, with over 37 million hits since 9:00 a.m. on 4/2/12."
The 1940 census was particularly interesting to researchers because it happened during the Great Depression and asked a number of questions related to the effect that the Depression had had on families. In addition, it was on the verge of America officially entering World War II.
The Census Bureau itself also has a page of information about America in 1940 as well as to the 1940 census and how things have changed since then. At present, the data is not indexed by name -- though this is promised for the future -- but by "enumeration district" based on where the person live.
While most of the news coverage thus far is about the extraordinary amount of traffic on the site, some people are starting to get through, find their relatives, and post the information they've found.
But beware: Identity thieves might be combing through the information too, warned the Christian Science Monitor.