Sunday, July 22, 2012

1940 Census Indexing Winding Down

This week on Friday, July 20, which would have been my grandmother's 109th birthday, I completed 25,000 records for the 1940 Indexing project. Just this month I was able to do over 10,000 records. Why would I invest so much time in this project? Because, it is a once in a lifetime experience that allows people to participate in a project that will be beneficial to researchers for free forever. The feelings of locating a record for a  family member, friend or a fellow researcher are usually a sense of connection to people that they have known intimately.

Another aspect of the indexing project is the phenomenal speed with which it is being accomplished. In 111 days the index is 93.84 completed, with thirty states now searchable by index, we patiently await the release of more states. Eight states are at 100% and should be released soon. Of the twelve states left, six are in the 90% range and only eight are still available for indexing. It is interesting that those still available include:
Connecticut 96%
Georgia 90%
Maryland 86%
Massachusetts 65%
Michigan 63%
New Jersey 42%
South Carolina 60%
Tennessee 77%

This morning I downloaded batches for Connecticut to help finish that state. Of the ten I requested I received five, with the warning that they will expire tomorrow. That has been the case for everything I downloaded for the last few days.

Of the twenty-nine states that I indexed for, only eight included more than forty records. When they started awarding badges for the states I wanted to earn one for as many states as still possible, which were available at that time. Then I went on to do more extensive indexing for those eight. They include:
Massachusetts 5040
Connecticut 4600
Ohio 4320
Illinois 4000
Nebraska 3400
Oregon 1440
Washington 1000
Kentucky 440

In the indexing I witnessed a broad overview of the population of the United States in 1935 and 1940. It was certainly an interesting time period for this country. So many lived in multi-generational family groups. They had just experienced the great depression and were facing another World War. Many older children in their 30s and 40s had not married and either lived with parents or siblings. The mix of immigrant families from around the world varied a lot by location. Whole communities of ethnic groups from Canada, Czechoslovakia (which I can now finally spell), Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Yugoslavia, etc. settled together. Then there were those who settled in racial groups. Some had been here for generations and others were new arrivals.

My grandparents were found in Nebraska and Oregon and my four living great grandparents, three of whom had remarried, in Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon. Of my great grandparents only two lived after I was born and I have no personal memories of any of them. Now I have been able to add pieces of information to each of their personal histories. With their pictures, I now come to understand more about their life experiences and how they tie into our family history.

Over the years I worked with many people in researching their family histories and often mentioned how much the 1940 Census would help them in their work. Unfortunately I did not create a list of those individuals who would be of interest. Going back to their genealogy databases we can focus on some of those people. These usually include people who just seem to disappear from the family contacts and are quite possibly living close by, sometimes having families that their relatives know nothing about. The puzzle pieces can be fitted into place with just the small amount of information about the individuals in the 1940 Census. That is why this indexing is so critical.

The indexing will probably be completed this coming week, maybe even on my birthday. We are in the final preparations of our bi-annual Oregon Genealogy Conference, Summer Genealogy Fest, sponsored by the Genealogical Council of Oregon on July 28. Our small group of seven indexers for the GCO has completed over 51,000 records, most of which were not for Oregon. My heartfelt thank you to each of the indexers around the world who contributed many hours to see this project completed earlier than ever anticipated. It is not perfect, but then indexing is not a perfect science. Now Family Search is preparing to move on to another huge indexing project. Please read about it on their Facebook page.

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