25 February 2012

Where Were My Soldiers in 1940?

The release date for the 1940 US census is so close you can feel it! On April 2nd, 2012, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will provide images of 1940 census online. There will be no charge to access these images; however, there will also be no index! At least not right away. And that's where you and I come in.

The 1940 US Census Community project, a joint initiative between Archives.com, FamilySearch, findmypast.com, and other leading genealogy organizations, will coordinate efforts to provide quick access to these digital images and immediately start indexing these records to make them searchable online with free and open access.

Personally, I can't wait. As a case worker subcontracted to the US Army to find the families of servicemen lost in previous conflicts, I usually juggle anywhere from 8-15 cases at a time. Since most of my cases are from the Korean and Second World Wars, I usually find myself longing for information on the family unit in 1940. That alone would be enough to keep me happy, but what is going to go a long way in helping me solve my cases more quickly is that little question "Where were you living on January 1st, 1935?" It's beautiful! In an era of closed vital records, threats to the Social Security Administration's Death Master File and other restrictions on access to public records, it is a relief to be able to get any information on families. I just know my productivity will rise as a result!

We still have to find a way to get these images indexed, though, and that is where the 1940 US Census Community Project comes in. Whether as an individual or on behalf of your favorite genealogical society, you can volunteer to index these images. I signed up at RootsTech last month. It's a great project for your society and there are full instructions on how to organize this great service project on the 1940 US Census Community Project webpage. Take a look to see how you can help. It's actually quite fun to index. You download indexing software and they provide a small batch of records to you. When you complete one batch, they send the next. As I understand it, we will be able to choose which state to index, but not individual towns and cities.

I'm greatly looking forward to this and I hope every genealogist takes a few hours to index some of the 1940 US census. Projections are that it could take six months to complete, but if we really step up our involvement it could be significantly less than that.



1 comment:

Jacqi said...

You are right about this being a great project for a society or group to get involved with...although I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it fun. Interesting and rewarding, for sure, though! And definitely long-awaited! I'm sure hoping the "many hands make light work" mantra enables us to have a quick turn-around time on this indexing project.