This last week there were two major announcements from the organizations working on indexing the 1940 census. Work began early April to take the millions of digital images created from the enumerators work as they visited each household in 1940 and transcribe the information into a searchable index. This allows individuals to search for those in the census by name rather than browse through hundreds or thousands of images to find their ancestors.
Three efforts were kicked off last April. Ancestry.com engaged multiple off-shore commercial data entry companies to perform the data entry. MyHeritage engaged a single off-shore data entry company. FamilySearch, brightsolid (FindMyPast.com), Archives.com, ProQuest, and The National Archives of the United States kicked off an effort together to work with volunteers and create a free index.
Last week Ancestry.com announced that they had completed the transcription and had published indexes for all fifty states. Only a few days behind their announcement FamilySearch communicated that volunteers had completed indexing the census and that it would be published online within the next two to three weeks. MyHeritage has continued to work on their index and has not yet announced when it will be completed.
All of the organizations have decided to release the census for free for a period of time. FamilySearch will have free access to the census records in perpetuity. This is a great time to get started in family history. You can likely find someone you know in the census, and then likely be able to find someone you do not know about.
The FamilySearch initiative to index the census was wildly successful. More than 120,000 individuals came together and indexed the census in only four months. That is more than 132 million records indexed over that time. It represents millions of volunteer hours. The volunteer effort completed the census in approximately the same time as multiple commercial organizations. It was amazing to watch the excitement, commitment, and service orientation of the genealogical community.
I hope you take a moment to go out and search the census on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org It is always good to have more than one index in case the record is transcribed incorrectly on one. If you haven’t participated in the tremendous work to this point, now is your chance to get involved and take advantage of the fruits of all the volunteer labor. Your experience will help you learn more about your ancestors and, likely more about yourself.