"The National Archives and Records Administration will open the 1940 U.S. Federal Census on April 2, 2012—the first time this collection will be made available to the public. Once we receive the census, we will begin uploading census images to our site so the public can browse them. Initially, this collection will be what we call a browse-only collection. This means a person can scroll through the pages of the census districts much like you would look at a microfilm or a book. At the same time, we will be working behind the scenes to create an index of the census that will eventually allow people to search for their family members by name as they currently can with all other censuses on Ancestry.com. Note also that the 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be accessible free of charge throughout 2012 on Ancestry.com."
The bottom line is that as soon as the NARA releases the paper census to the public, Ancestry.com will begin scanning it and posting those images online for individuals to browse. Behind the scenes hordes of volunteers and professionals will be creating an index of the pages for a searchable database. I was also excited to learn that Ancestry.com will be providing the 1940 census for free throughout 2012.
For more information and updates on their progress you can visit their 1940 census page. You will also be able to access scans for free from the collaboration between FamilySearch, Archives.com, and FindMyPast.com. Learn more here. Epic!