Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I'm Making History!!! And You Can, Too!

For the past several days, I have blogged about the launch of the 1940 U.S. Census. Well, it finally happened yesterday!!! Thousands of people all over the world downloaded a page from the 1940 U.S. Census and indexed it. The event was even featured on the CBS Evening News. You can read what they are saying and watch the video here.

I spent the day at the Family History Center celebrating. We played big band music, ate yummy 1940s treats, and indexed! Some of us dressed in 1940s period clothing--we even had a couple of Rosie Riveters. A few folks came in to register with the 1940 Census Community Project and to learn how to index. We weren't able to download any batches from the 1940 census until around 3:30 p.m., but we were able to practice on other projects and to teach the "newbies" while we waited. It was a truly memorable day.

The 1940 census images are incredibly clear and easy to read. I have been indexing for over a year and a half and I have never seen projects this easy. Indexing goes really fast when you can actually read it!

It was a little disappointing that the images were not accessible from the 1940census.archives.gov website as expected, but completely understandable. Anyone that has lived through any kind of electronic launch knows that something always goes wrong on the first day. But the good, and tired, folks at National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Archives.com were working furiously to correct the problem. I think it is mostly fixed now and they will make further enhancements today to help ensure it doesn't crash again.

Ancestry.com was also uploading the images to their website and doing it very quickly! Remember that they are offering the images for free until October 2013. You can track their progress at their 1940 Census page (click on "Browse images from the 1940 census" and scroll down to the bottom to see which states are complete, in process, or coming soon). You can also give them your email address to be notified when your state is uploaded (scroll down to the "Stay in the Loop in 1940" box and click on the underlined words "...giving us your email address today"). But since none of my states are Completed, In Process*, or even Coming Soon! on Ancestry yet, I will not be checking out that service for a while.

I did download the image for my paternal grandparents and their family from the 1940census.archives.gov website this morning! I had a reasonable expectation that they lived in St. Augustine, Knox county, Illinois which is a rural area. By using the Unified 1940 Census ED Finder, I narrowed St. Augustine down to two Enumeration Districts (EDs). I then selected the radio button for "1940 Census Pages", clicked on the first ED 48-37, and was redirected to the images for that ED on the 1940census.archives.gov website.

Luckily for me, that ED only has 20 pages so I figured it wouldn't take too much time to go through it page by page. Luckier still, my grandfather's household was on the bottom of the first page and the top of the third page! It took me about 2 minutes to find them!

The census revealed some interesting facts about them that I was not aware of before now. Grandpa died of "cardiac exhaustion brought on by silicosis" in 1943. He contracted the silicosis from working in a pottery factory for many years. My father thought that the family moved to St. Augustine to live on a farm as farming was the only work Grandpa could do because of the illness. But the 1940 census says that he was not living on a farm, he was unable to work, and his occupation was Paster in the pottery industry. Furthermore, he owned their home valued at $1200. My grandmother was apparently the wage earner in the family that year, she was an inspector at an overall factory. She earned $565 in 1939 which is close to the median annual income for women ($592). Interestingly, my grandparents and their two eldest children lived in Abingdon, Knox county, Illinois in 1935, yet the four younger children (enumerated on the top of the next page) were living in the "Same Place" which means the same town as in 1940 (St. Augustine), but not the same house.

Downloaded census image from 1940census.archives.gov via One-Step tool.
Now, to get back to the Making History part. You can join the 1940 Census Project and index some census records, too. Not only will you be making history but you will also be helping others to locate their families. As an additional incentive, the 1940 Census Project has a weekly contest that qualifies participants to be entered into a weekly drawing for awesome prizes. A new challenge has been issued this week. All you have to do is download and complete one 1940 U.S. Census batch by 11:59 p.m. MST (10:59 p.m. Arizona time) on Sunday, April 8. By doing so, you will be entered into the drawing for an Amazon Kindle Fire! If you are not registered as an indexer with a society, you will also need to go to the 1940 Census Project Games and Prizes page to opt-in. Check out their blog post "Weekly Contest – Week of April 2" for details and links. When you create your FamilySearch account, please enter "Pima County Genealogy Society" as your group.

Thanks for dropping by.

Disclosure:  As part of the1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for a $50 Visa gift card or a Yeti Microphone.

1 comment:

  1. The people in the 1940 census deserve to have their records preserved and made available online.

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