Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Great Milestone!

I helped index the first half of the 1940 US census

A few weeks ago, I chose to sign up to do indexing of the 1940 U.S. Census.  I had been trying to do some genealogy work and had wanted to look at something in that census, which had just been released in early April, and because it hadn't been indexed yet, I couldn't easily find what I was looking for.  Drat.  So, I started looking into where the progress was with the indexing of the census and was actually a little dismayed when I learned that only a few states had been done - mainly Nevada, Utah, and Delaware.  Really?  Well, they probably were some of the least populous states in 1940 and okay, there ARE 150 million images that have to be indexed and it was only 2 weeks after they were released!  In seeing that, and knowing I needed states that likely were still a ways off from being done, I decided I would do what I could to my "spare" time.  So, I signed up to do indexing.

Indexing is where you see an image of the census page on your screen and then you type in certain information from that page into a program that you download onto your computer.  After you finish the page, you submit the "batch" and off it goes and you can start another one or stop.  Then, someone else somewhere out in the world who has also chosen to do indexing signs in and gets the same image to index.  They type all the same fields that you just typed, they submit the batch, and then they are done or move on to another image.  The data from their batch and the data from your batch get compared against each other by a computer.  If both sets of data match, fantastic!  If not, an "arbitrator" reviews the batch and makes the final decision.

So, I downloaded the program to my computer and got started.  Some of the batches have been hard.  Others easy.  It's interesting that people thought back in 1940 that it was completely fine to write census data in cursive.  I bet they never realized that someone in 2012 would have to try to read what they wrote.  It's too bad they didn't have iPads then where they could have just typed it in as they went door to door.  But then...we do have iPads now and when they just did the 2010 census two years ago, it was done through the mail and not everyone was accounted for if they "chose" not to do it.  Technology is usually good...but in this case, maybe the door-to-door would have been better.  I think I need to look into the response rate from the 2010 census effort!

Another reason I wanted to do indexing is for my Good Works Value Project for the Personal Progress program.  This is an easy way for me to get 10 hours toward that project, while still accomplishing something good and of value.  I've already completed 7 batches, which is about 4 hours of work.  They usually take me about 30 minutes, but one took me at least an hour - it was really hard to read - both image quality and writing were bad.  These 9 batches equate to 330 names.  I know...not a lot in the grand scheme of things - 150 million pages x 40 names per page = A LOT versus my minuscule 330 names, but hey, every little bit helps.

Okay, so back to the reason for this post...

Today all we indexers who have worked on the census received a special email thanking us for our service and letting us know that the 1940 census is now 50% indexed due to the efforts of more than 125,000 volunteers around the world who have helped.  They gave us the image above and the one below to put on our blogs or wherever to indicate where we have helped.  I love being part of things like this - it gives me a sense of community, service, and love.  As I earn badges from doing other states, I will add them to my blog.  For now...mine are pretty limited, but they are spurring me on to do other states so I can gather as many as I can!

1 comment:

Cindy said...

That is SO, SO cool! I'm working on my PP as a mother and this would be an awesome goal. Inspiring, dear!