Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sling words, not birds, to make 1940 census records available to all

Who do you know who was age one, ten, or 20 in 1940?
Bugs Bunny’s out of luck. Although he was created in 1940, he’s not among 132 million Americans on the 1940 Census. However, lots of those folks are still around —including Tom Brokaw, Chuck Norris and Raquel Welch, all born that year.
Computer and family history enthusiasts are invited to help make information from the 1940 Census available by helping to index digitized census records. Some indexers say that typing information from the handwritten record is more fun than “Angry Birds.”
 The National Archives has digitized the 1940 Census US population schedules, which will be available on April 2. But it won’t be very easy to figure out what Grandpa and Grandma were doing back then, because the census is a huge amount of raw data, coded by geographic location rather than by name.
Javanne Martin is president of the Idaho Genealogical Society, and she says her group and other genealogical groups across the country need volunteers from age 13 on up to enter census information on home computers to help create a searchable database index.
Once that’s done, it will be much easier to research your family’s 1940 records, and even view digital images of the page where they‘re listed in the census. 
Martin notes that handwriting of 1940’s census takers is easier to read than that of many other documents.  She said Family Search has the indexing software to do the job, and the National Archives is partnering with them and other groups to index the census.
So how do you sign up? 
Start at Enter your name and email address. You’ll receive an email with a link to:
The email says, “Click on the link to Get Started to download the indexing software.  If you do not have a FamilySearch or LDS account, you will be prompted to create one when you start the FamilySearch indexing application.
“Once you start the program, you select a batch of images from a number of available projects. The following projects will help you best prepare for the 1940 census: WWI Draft Cards, WWII Draft Cards, Iowa 1895 State Census, UK 1871 Census, Boston Passenger Lists, Port of Detroit Manifests, Ohio Tax Records, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, and Texas County Tax Rolls.”
Martin says each census page contains 40-50 names, and will be indexed by two indexers to insure that there’s a crosscheck.  Discrepancies will be referred to an arbitrator. If an image isn’t clear, the indexer may skip it and leave it for the arbitrator.
Volunteers can do as much or as little indexing as they want, with a one page per week minimum. An indexer has one week to complete a page, and has no control over which geographic area he or she indexes, though it’s possible Idahoans may get preference in indexing Idaho counties. Martin believes records for larger states will be released first. 
I’m ready to start on April 2—I’m no good at catapulting those birds anyway!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Conquering clutter one bedspread at a time

“How would you organize these papers if you didn’t have a queen size bed to put them on? When you find an answer, do it!”
My own sign glares at me.
Some people talk to themselves. I go one better—I write a conversation between conflicting parts of my brain and hang it up.
I should be drafting my column, but I’m torn—should I clean my office, once a children’s bedroom, or ignore the chaos and write?
It’s a terrible decision for a woman married to clean freak. I know how he’d vote.
Stacks of paper litter the room’s bed and my desk. It gets worse: as our children moved out, I moved boxes and files of paper into closets: papers I collected, papers my husband and I collected, papers I inherited from my mother.
Everyone but me is moving into a paperless world. Idaho’s next earthquake will come when the continental shelf shifts under my stockpile.  
My phone keeps ringing—somebody with the odd last name of “Hoarders.”
My excuse? Paper is the stuff of family history.  That 1969 funeral program could provide the name of a long-forgotten cousin.  Those scribbles on theme paper can teach me how Mom dealt with four deaths of close family members, including her mother, during the year she gave birth to my sister.  
Historic papers, photos, recipes and other surprises lurking in boxes will provide documentation for projects that I must complete—if I ever get them organized so I can find them when I need them.
Maybe the Internet has the answers.  
The site “Women’s,” says:  
“According to Susan Silver (Organized To Be The Best! Adams Hall Publishers, 1995), when it comes to files and piles, people have three fears.
Afraid to make a decision. If you don't know what to call a piece of paper, you'll end up calling it nothing. If it doesn't have a name, it doesn't get a home. Such orphans collect in unnamed stacks, piles, drawers and in-boxes. Afraid to discard anything. Heaven forbid you should throw anything out—you might need it someday. Afraid you'll never see it again. Filing an item in some systems is like flinging it into a black hole. If that describes your system, stacks and piles are indeed a lot safer.”
With all three fears, I have “papyrophobia: fear of paper,” according to the “The Phobia List” website.
Women’s Media site’s article, “First Step on the Road to Paper Control,” says:
“1.) Schedule a block of time when you can work without interruption. Be sure to have large trash containers close by. Get yourself mentally ready to attack.
“2.) Scoop everything together in a central location. Ask yourself…’Do I really need this?” No…Then toss it or recycle (that’s what the trash containers are for); no…cancel the subscription; no...if you ever do need it, you can find it elsewhere; no…it’s old or out of date; no…you can delegate or pass on the information.
“If your answer is ‘Not all of it…cut out the article and throw away the magazine; if it’s maybe…toss into a big box to sort through later. [Whoops—that’s what I did with my Mom’s stuff two years ago!]  If later never comes, then guess what? …toss it in the trash or recycle; if it’s yes…when? Only immediate action paper goes back on your desk.”
It sounds exciting—plowing through the paper mess, setting myself free to soar, to create, to achieve.  My husband will be thrilled!
I’m going to do it, too—after I shove these piles of paper aside and take a snooze on this handy bed.