Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's All the Ruckus About?

For the last several months, the genealogy community has been abuzz about the release of the 1940 U.S. Census. As a matter of fact, I have heard very little else. The release of a census to the general public is a big deal in our world. Census records are a very important resource for tying family units together and it only happens once every ten years. I remember the excitement ten years ago when the 1930 U.S. Census was being released...but it didn't compare with what I am seeing for 1940. So what's the big deal? What makes this one so special?

When the National Archives released the 1930 U.S. Census on 1 April 2002, it was available only on microfilm at the National Archives building in Washington, DC and the National Archives regional facilities. The Family History Library also received microfilm copies and made them available for rent through the Family History Centers. Only seven southern states had a Soundex which meant that you either had to know the Enumeration District where your ancestors lived or you had to scroll through every page on the microfilm for the city/town in which they lived. Since my mother's family lived in places like Chicago and Boston, and seemed to move around a lot during the Great Depression, I did not relish that task. started working on digitizing the 1930 U.S. Census on the day it was released and they published the first online images within days and published a few more every week. The indexes were published a little more slowly but it took about a year and a half to complete them. I found my Chicago relatives in December 2002; I still have not located my Boston relatives.

In contrast, NARA is releasing the 1940 U.S. Census as free digital images!, FamilySearch,, and several genealogy organizations have teamed together to provide quick access to those digital images and to start indexing the records to make them searchable online for free!

This joint initiative is the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project, and we can all help to make it happen.

How exciting is that!? We get to be a part of this historic event and we get to pay back some of the acts of genealogical kindness that have been granted to us in the past. All you have to do is go to the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project website, download the indexing software, and complete one practice batch of the 1940 U.S. Census! And, if you do it before 11:59 pm MDT on Friday, 30 March, you will be eligible to win a prize! That's right, three qualified entrants will receive either a $100 or $50 VISA gift card. Hop on over to the 1940 main blog indexing practice contest website to register for the contest and get started. When you create your FamilySearch account, please enter "Pima County Genealogy Society" as your group.

Thanks for dropping by.

Disclosure:  As part of ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for a $100 VISA gift card, a $50 VISA gift card, or an Amazon Kindle Fire.