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 https://the1940census.com/ 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!

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