Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Many people are taking a peek into the past after the release of 1940 census records. In a CNN.com opinion piece, Michael S. Snow, a historian with the U.S. Census Bureau, offered his thoughts on why that might be the case. Readers shared their enthusiasm in the comments section, providing some fascinating stories about genealogy and discovery.
We'd like to hear from you about what you've found. If you've learned something interesting about the history of your house after digging through the archives, please share your story at CNN iReport.
One reader said she hoped to learn about relatives she never got to meet.
Buffalogal013: "I have been waiting for the 1940 census for the longest time. I was very excited to see its release, though disappointed that it wasn't searchable in the state that I needed. Still I was able to 'meet' my Dad's parents and a couple of his siblings who both died before I could remember them and find my Mom's parents and grandparents. (I had not met her father's parents.) It was interesting to see how my Mom's father's mother – who had emigrated from Italy in 1913 – had Americanized her name between the 1930 and 1940 census and became a naturalized citizen. It was a neat moment."
With some detailed research, another commenter discovered a family member.
Guest: "I have been trying to find the identity of my grandfather for years. The 1940 census was pretty much my last hope. I had a last name and an idea of his first ... and I found him! I couldn't care less that it wasn't searchable. I just went through line by line in the area my grandmother lived in and bingo! Further research confirms that my father was named after him, just without the last name.
For others, the thrill was in learning a bit more about the details of how people lived. FULL POST
The growth in the United States’ white population last decade is due largely to a rise in the number of the country’s Hispanics, the U.S. Census Bureau says.
And the number of people who reported their race as both black and white more than doubled, according to the bureau.
Hispanics account for 74% of white population’s growth
Though the number of whites in the United States rose last decade, and though they still were in the vast majority in 2010, their share of the total population dipped.
Because other races grew faster, whites’ percentage of the population – including multiracial whites – dropped from 77% to 74.8%. Nevertheless, the white population did grow by 14.1 million people, or 6.5% (to 231 million).
Of that growth, most of it came from people who identified as Hispanic. It is important to note that the bureau considers Hispanic to be a category of origin, not race.
Whites who said they were Hispanic accounted for 74 percent of the growth in the U.S. white population from 2000 to 2010, according to the bureau. This includes people who said they were multiracial white, such as white and black, or white and Asian.
The number of Hispanic whites – both multiracial Hispanic whites and not – rose from 18.8 million to 29.2 million, and now represent 9.4 percent of the U.S. population, up from 6.7 percent.
Priscilla Martinez wishes the children of Las Lomas had an after-school program this fall. But in this Texas border community poverty is the norm, and extras like after-school programs are luxuries.
"We don’t have any funding right now," said Martinez, director of Colonias Unidas, the community center in Las Lomas that usually hosts the after-school program. "We're just hanging on by a string."
Colonias Unidas' primary source of funding comes from revenue from mailboxes the center rents to Las Lomas residents. That money ran out after this year's summer program, which provided the children of Las Lomas with lunch and a place to play four days a week, Martinez said.
CNN visited Las Lomas in July, when the summer program was in full swing. Gavina Barrera, a resident of Las Lomas, showed us around the community, which is known in bureaucrat-speak as a "colonia," or an unincorporated settlement usually lacking water, sewage systems, sanitation or electricity.
In Las Lomas, in unincorporated Starr County about an hour from McAllen, median household income was $22,418 in 2009.
Barrera, a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to Las Lomas in 1984, has seen the colonia grow from a shanty town to a neighborhood with paved roads and drainage systems. It may be substandard to many Americans, but given the progress of the past 20 years, it's a place Barrera is proud to call home.
But with each step forward, it seems another hurdle arises.
Colonias Unidas held an after-school program last year from September to May, she said. From Monday to Thursday, high school students provided homework help to younger children, receiving a stipend as incentive. This year, the money ran out before fall, Martinez said.
In the meantime, residents look forward to the little things, she said. Colonias Unidas holds a monthly "mercadito," where residents can sell handmade crafts or used household items. In October, architecture students from Texas A&M University will build a playground on the community center's grounds.
"That's something we look forward to. It gives motivation to the community, and that's important when you have little in the way of wealth or material possessions." she said. "People live simple lives here, but basically, as long as they're safe and their families are safe, they're happy."
Here’s an honor to add to the welcome sign in town: Great Falls, Montana, home to the United States’ shortest commute.
At just 14.2 minutes, the average commute in Montana’s third-largest city is beating New York’s by 20 minutes. According to a Census Bureau report released Thursday, workers in the New York metro area require an average 34.6 minutes to get to their jobs.
“Commuting in the United States: 2009,” ranks the commutes, and says a lucky 13% of commuters get to work in less than 10 minutes. About 2% need 90 minutes or longer for their daily trips.
The average U.S. commute: About 25 minutes.
It’s not bad – about the same as in 2000, actually – but it’s no Great Falls. FULL POST
Births have overtaken immigration as the driving force behind the growth of the Mexican-American population in the United States in the past decade, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The same can be said for the entire Hispanic population of the United States, which grew from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010, accounting for 16.3% of the U.S. population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. About 58% of that growth resulted from births rather than the arrival of new immigrants, the report says.
The trend is most evident among Mexican-Americans, whose numbers grew by 7.2 million as a result of births and 4.2 million from new immigrant arrivals in the past decade, reversing trends from the previous two decades, when the number of new immigrants matched or exceeded the number of births, the report says.
Mexican-Americans are the nation's largest Hispanic group, at around 31.8 million, or 63% of the U.S. Hispanic population and 10% of the total U.S. population.
In the Pew report, the term Mexican-American applies to people of Mexican origin, regardless of immigration status. The study noted that in 2010, 52% of people of Mexican origin were in the U.S. illegally, and that 68% of births to undocumented aliens were to Mexican nationals.
What's behind the change?
America is older and more middle-aged-looking than ever before.
That’s the take-away from a new dump of data the U.S. Census Bureau released on Thursday morning as part of its efforts to quantify American life.
In demographer-speak, the median age of the United States is now 37.2, according to census data. That means there are the same number of people older than that age as younger. Or, in everyday-language, the country is approaching that ripe old age of 40.
“Forty makes it sound like a middle-aged country,” said Carl Schmertmann, an economics professor at Florida State University’s Center for Demography and Population Health.
New 2010 Census data released Thursday provides a detailed breakdown of age, gender and race, in 13 states along various geographic lines, including zip code and county levels.
The first data release from the "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010" includes information for the District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Median ages in this group range from 33.8 in DC to 42.7 in Maine. The bureau is releasing the information in groups of states on a weekly basis in May. National data will be released at the end of the month. Data for individual states can be found on the Census Bureau's American FactFinder.
The new figures break down male and female populations into age groups and identifies households by relationship and type. The data set also includes the size of group quarters and housing occupancy status, such as rentals, homes for sale and seasonal units.
The numbers illustrate trends previously reported on the local level, such as the growing Hispanic population, outmigration from the northeast to the southeast and flips in major cities from majority white to minority white populations, said Kenneth Prewitt, former Census Bureau director and vice president for Global Centers at Columbia University. But the decennial census results bring together those small pieces of the puzzle to create a picture of what the country looks like as a whole and where it's headed, he said.
"Anyone who closely follows what's going on in demography will not learn much new from these numbers, but there's something about the decennial Census that attracts attention because it's a highly visible moment where the country pauses and takes a look at itself," he said.
The data also takes a closer look at the origins of people who identified on the decennial census as Hispanic or Latino – Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other – Asian – Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese – Native Hawaiian – Guamanian or Chamorro or Samoa – or multiracial.
New York University sociology professor Ann Morning, who specializes in race and ethnicity and racial classification, said aggregate breakdowns of the number of people who identified as multiracial and their ages could be useful for making projections regarding the country's racial makeup.
"We're not seeing these shifts for the first time – the question of whether this nation is becoming less white, that's been happening since 1950s. But are we becoming more multiracial?" she said. "It will be interested to see how age breakdowns of different mixed groups look compared to 2000 data."
New census data confirm that some major metropolitan areas flipped from majority white to majority populations of minorities during the past decade.
White people are now in the minority in 46 of the nation's 366 metro areas, including New York, Washington, San Diego, Las Vegas and Memphis, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
That number is up from 32 in 2000, 10 in 1990 and nine in 1980, Frey said.
The changes are a result of relatively slow growth among the white population, white people moving outside metropolitan areas, and huge increases in minority populations, especially Hispanic and Asian, he said.
Recent analysis also showed white children are in the minority in 10 states.
"[The 2010 Census figures] show we’re becoming a more diverse nation, especially in our metropolitan areas, and it's filtering out from there," Frey said.
The Census Bureau previously released the data for cities, counties and states, but data calculated for metropolitan areas and regions might give people a more accurate understanding of where they live, Frey said.
For example, while the population of the city of Atlanta grew by about 3,500, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area, as the Census Bureau calls it, grew by more than 1 million. The Houston and Dallas areas also had growth of more than 1 million, while the Phoenix and Riverside, California, areas both added more than 900,000.
"As we become much more of a suburban nation, the kind of glue that puts the community together is the idea of the metropolitan community," he said.
Looking at metro areas also can offer a deeper view of how people live in different areas. Frey has used statistics about metropolitan areas to calculate the most segregated areas in the country. In terms of white and black, the most segregated areas were around Milwaukee, New York, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.
White children are now in the minority among people under 18 in 10 U.S. states and 35 large metro areas, according to a Brookings analysis of 2010 Census data.
The number of white children in metro areas including Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; and Phoenix, Arizona, fell below that of other children in the last decade as the population of white children nationwide declined by 4.3 million, the report said.
The decline occurred as the number of children identified as "new minorities" – Hispanics, Asians and other racial groups apart from whites, blacks and American Indians – grew by 5.5 million, the report said.
Hispanics registered an increase of 4.8 million, which kept the nation's overall child population from declining, the report said. The findings reflect changes in the racial makeup of the overall U.S. population with Hispanics becoming the nation's largest and fastest growing minority group.
There are some conferences you look forward to for the opportunity to absorb the latest trends in your field, share your own findings and immerse yourself in spirited discussion with like-minded colleagues.
For thousands of demographers, sociologists, economists and public health professionals, the annual meeting of the Population Association of America this week in Washington was that kind of event.
The conference brought together academics and professionals in population research and education to share information on topics you'd expect to be of interest to that group: fertility, sexual behavior, race, ethnicity, mortality, race, ethnicity, gender, urbanization, inequality, development and applied demography, to name a few.
The conference comes during a banner year for such experts, whose expertise is in high demand from scholars, analysts and reporters, for help deciphering 2010 census data. Several sessions hit upon prominent themes to come out of the 2010 analysis so far, among them, "Immigrant Integration and Assimilation," "The Context of Cohabiting Unions" and "Baby Boomers Turn 65."
"The conference is going well – record attendance, interesting sessions and special events," Mary Jo Hoeksema, PAA's director of government and public affairs, said in an enthusiastic e-mail from the conference Saturday. "Congresswoman [Carolyn] Maloney addressed the conferees last night and pledged her support for federal statistical agencies and the importance of collecting accurate data! Our president, Dr. David Lam, gave his address analyzing myths and realities surrounding the post-war world population boom."
Plato, Missouri, population 109, is the new geographic center of the population of the United States.
U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves congratulated the southeast Missouri town during a news conference Thursday.
"2010 is a special decade in our nation’s history," Groves said. "The center of the population has moved in a southerly direction in the most extreme way we've ever seen."
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The population of the United States grew 9.7% to 308.7 million people over the past decade - the slowest rate of growth since the Great Depression - the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday.Read CNNMoney.com's coverage of the census report
How many people live in the United States, and which states will gain and lose congressional seats as the result of population shifts?
The U.S. Census Bureau will answer those questions Tuesday.
The first official results from the 2010 Census will be released at 11 a.m. ET, including the nation's total resident population and new congressional apportionment totals for each state.
The census determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress, and states base the size and shape of their districts in part on census figures.
CNN.com and CNNMoney.com will provide complete coverage, including a look at the fastest- and slowest-growing states. The data could provide insight into whether the nation's two-year economic downturn has forced people to move.
You can watch a live webcast of the announcement here.
And while the government may not be known for kicking out exciting graphics, the Census Bureau has posted a cool interactive map showing how the population has moved with every 10-year count since 1910.
The Census Bureau has previously released snapshots of data through the American Community Survey, but that is based on sampling, not on the complete count taken last spring.