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“Way to go, Idaho!”

April 26, 2012

(Bonus points if you can identify that movie quote!)

It’s been 3 1/2 weeks since the 1940 census was released and made available for indexing.  Map lovers that we are, we visit the 1940 Census page on FamilySearch nearly every day to check on the progress of the indexing project.  Even the boys are excited about this.  Here’s a screen shot:

The darker the state, the more complete the indexing is.  As of today, 12 states are 99 or 100% complete, and several more are very close to being finished!  The project as a whole is up to 19.87% complete.  It’s incredible to see what’s being accomplished by so many volunteers working together.

We had to laugh though; as soon as the western states were made available for indexing, those batches were snatched up quickly.  I think that out here in the “Mormon belt,” we have more indexers per capita than anywhere else and they’ve certainly been doing a goodly amount of indexing!  But it’s a wonderful thing.  I still haven’t found my maternal grandparents in Idaho, so, “Way to go, Idaho!”  Or rather, way to go, Idaho indexers!  In just a few weeks, I’ll be able to find my family there in a searchable name index.

I have been doing quite a lot of indexing myself this month.  I set a goal to index in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, and on Tuesday I finished up with batches from New York and New Jersey.  I hadn’t planned to complete so many so soon, but I feel compelled to work on this project, and it’s actually quite addicting, and dare I say it–fun?  Depending on the enumerator’s handwriting, it can also be quite the challenge to puzzle out the names to be indexed.  A likes the puzzle aspect of it as well.  He’s up to 18 states himself and does about a batch a day.  He got a perfect score on a batch yesterday from Alaska, full of Russian names.  (I think this counts as geography for the month!)

It’s been interesting to me to index all different nationalities around the country.  So far I’ve indexed Russian names in Alaska, Japanese names in Hawaii, Scandinavian names in Minnesota and North Dakota, French names in both New Hampshire and Louisiana, Native American names in eastern Utah, Spanish names in Texas, and quite a few German, Polish, and eastern European names in the East Coast states.  One birthplace was even listed as “Check-o-slovakia.”  I congratulate the enumerator for taking a stab at that.  I knew exactly what he meant!  (Although I spelled it correctly!)

It’s also been interesting to get a peek into people’s lives in April 1940.  I’ve indexed a lot of households with multiple generations within, probably due to the Depression.  Also, a lot of single adults were still living with parents, which, though kind of looked down on today, was probably necessitated by the economic realities of the time.  What gets to me most though, is finding households full of teenage boys and knowing that so many of those young men would be headed to war in just a short time.

A few things I’ve learned as I’ve gone along (that will hopefully help other indexers):

  • READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!  And the updates for the project, even if you’re a seasoned indexer and/or arbitrator (the person who resolves conflicts between the two indexers of each image.)  It’s so frustrating to see how your batches were arbitrated and find that an arbitrator  hasn’t followed the rules and has changed some of your correctly indexed information.  I expect there to be disagreements over interpretation of handwriting, but other rules that have been specifically spelled out for us are not being followed and it’s disheartening.  (Not enough to make me stop indexing though!)
  • But arbitrators are human too and I am thankful for all the good ones out there who have caught my careless mistakes.
  • Highlights for the sheets can be adjusted so you will always be looking at the correct information to be recorded for each field.  It took me a while to figure that out, but I’m so thankful for that!
  • Children under the age of 5 did not have a residence in 1935.  Think about it . . . and then mark all those fields blank!  (Regardless of whatever the original enumerator wrote down.)
  • If people were listed as living in the same house or same place (meaning same city but different house) in 1935, we leave the county and state fields blank.  (Again, ignore the enumerator if they weren’t following the rules in the first place!)
  • I just figured out how to auto-fill an entire column and working down the columns instead of across the rows goes a lot faster in most cases.  I fill in line 1, then ditto the columns for all but the names and ages, then all I have to do is type in the exceptions.  Example: I auto-fill “M” for male, then only have to type “F” for the females on the sheet as I go down that particular column.  It really speeds up the process.
  • We can and should correct spelling on place names, but not given names.
  • There were sure a lot of girls named Lillian and Dorothy!
Now that I’ve finished my 50 state goal, I’m kind of at a loss as to where I should index next.  They highly recommend you index your own area where you’re familiar with place names and even family names, but as I mentioned before, Utah was finished quite quickly!  DH’s relatives hail from Massachusetts and Maine though, so I think I’m headed to New England next.
It’s still not too late to join the effort!  Head over to the 1940 US Census Community Project site to get started.  Try a batch and let me know how you like it!

Disclosure:  As part of the1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for an Amazon Kindle Fire.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    April 27, 2012 12:23 am

    Nice post. If you’re looking for states to index next, do Massachusetts. I need to find my great-grandpa in the Boston area!

    • cellista permalink*
      April 27, 2012 12:35 am

      I actually did download several batches from Mass. The handwriting is just beautiful! I wish I’d taken 10 batches! It’s so nice to find an enumerator with easy to read writing.

  2. April 27, 2012 5:32 pm

    I have only done a few batches but I do find it interesting and fun. Some of the names are rather difficult to decipher. It is almost easier to do it with my husband because together we can figure out the names better than having only one set of eyes. I am no where near every state but I do pick a different state each time. It is a fun project.

  3. Powers permalink
    April 30, 2012 11:43 am

    Answer: Toy Story

    • cellista permalink*
      April 30, 2012 10:48 pm

      It is a quote from Toy Story! My boys say it all the time (we must watch a little too much Pixar around here!)

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