At this point, any ancestors I haven't found yet in the 1940 Census will not be found until an index is available. The best way to gain access to an index will be to help create one. The 1940 Census Community Project is working to create an index with the help of volunteers like me. So far, I've indexed a little more than 1,000 names from the 1940 Census using the FamilySearch Indexing program. The index we're creating will be available on FamilySearch.org, Archives.com, FindMyPast.com and the National Archives.
The Census Community Project uses FamilySearch Indexing's program. I've been indexing with this program for a few years now, but every project is different. So what have I learned while working on 1940 Census images?
- I'm human and I make mistakes. But that's ok. As with all other FamilySearch Indexing projects, each record to transcribed by two people and then checked over by an arbitrator. My current rate of accuracy is 98%. Pretty good I think.
- You can review your results in detail (log into the indexing software, click the "Arbitration Results" tab and then the "review batches' button). Some of the errors I make are "oops!" and one or two are "I was right on that..." You can ask for changes marked against you to be re-reviewed. Even arbitrators can make mistakes.
- If you read the instructions, you'll avoid common mistakes. Each field (house number, surname, place of birth, etc) has specific instructions to address common questions. Read them and learn things like:
- If the line is blank, mark it blank and do not index the line number.
- Children under five should have their "1935 locations" marked blank, even if the enumerator recorded a location.
- If someone was living in the "same place" or "same house" in 1935 then you do not record a county or state, even if the enumerator recorded them.
- I prefer to index down columns instead of across rows. It's faster. Some of the fields will pre-fill, such as surname, if I navigate down a column using the down arrow key. This method also enables me to concentrate more on a specific field instead of having to jump around. It disconnects me from the individual person and helps me focus on reading what's on the page. Usually this is a good thing. Sometimes it hurts though, if the enumerator makes a mistake (ex 1935 locations for someone under 5).
- The states of interest to me are not going to be complete for a while. The western half of the US is being indexed much more quickly than the middle or east.
- I can track the progress of the indexing here.
I don't know if the above list is encouraging or discouraging or neither, but indexing really is a great experience. I feel like I've accomplished something and helped someone. I encourage anyone interested in genealogy to take part in this project. Again, you can find out how to participate here.
Please note that this blog was inspired by, and written in response to, a contest hosted by The 1940 Census Community Project and does constitute a contest entry for a prize.