In case you have not heard, the images of the 1940 US census are being released on Monday April 2nd. Those images will be made available to indexers who will transcribe the information on the census into an indexing form. The index will allow you to search for your ancestors (and maybe yourself) online and bring up the image you need. The1940Census.com website says, “Unlike previous census years, images of the 1940 US Census will be made available as free digital images.” This wonderful opportunity has been made possible by the joint efforts of ArchivesTM, FamilySearchTM and findmypast.comTM as well as NGS, FGS, and APG.
It is not too late to sign up to be an indexer. Just go to The1940Census.com website and fill in the form. They only need your email address and your first and last name. If you like, you can declare your favorite state to index. With enough volunteers, they anticipate the completion by the end of the year. This project is a perfect example of “Many hands make light work”.
To get a feel for the indexing process in general, go to FamilySearch.org and click on the Indexing link at the top of the screen or click this link. www.familysearch.org/volunteer/indexing Once you get to the screen, click the “Test drive” button. The highlighted field makes is very easy to know where you should look for the information you need to enter. It is a miracle that we have the technology that makes this so easy.
While you are on that page, you may want to look at what other records are being indexed. If you click the “More” link at the bottom of the list of current projects, you will see two simulations of the 1940 US census records so you can practice. This is to help you be better prepared for the actual work of indexing the 1940 US census.
Some people fret over the responsibility of accurately deciphering the handwriting while they do the indexing. Certainly, that is important but you will not be the sole indexer of any page. The accuracy of the indexes is based upon more than one person indexing each record. The most simplistic explanation is that if each indexer puts the same information into the data field, then it is thought to be correct. If indexers put something different into the field, an arbitrator looks at the record and compares it to what was entered by the indexers and the “correct” information is accepted.
Even if the index perfectly reflects what the census taker wrote, it does not insure that the name will be spelled correctly or that the data on the census record will be perfect. The giver of the information may not have been illiterate so the census taker would do their best to enter the name based upon how it was pronounced. How would you spell a name that sounds like Hah-dah-me-o? Would you come up with Jaramillo? If you heard someone pronounce his child’s name as Elner, would you know it was Eleanor or think it was Elmer? Therefore, we may still have to be creative as we search for our family but the index will make the job a lot easier.
The images will be available to the public beginning 9:00 AM Eastern April 2, 2012 at http://1940census.archives.gov/ They will not be indexed but you can access them and search for your family by location or enumeration district . This will be more work but if you do not want to wait for the index this can be done. If everyone works together it should not be too long until the indexes are ready.
I am grateful that we are given the opportunity to help with such a big project and that it is a cooperative effort. To each of you who works on this project, THANK YOU!
March 30, 2012
Filed under: 1940 US Census