March 30, 2012

Giving Back by Indexing the 1940 Census

It’s hard to miss the anticipation building over the release of the 1940 U.S. census in just a few days on April 2, 2012. Initially, I admit the idea of the census release didn’t stir up a ton of excitement for me, since I know where my grandparents were living at the time, and I don’t have any missing relatives. But I’ve found a new reason to get enthused: the idea of giving back to the community that’s given me so much.

As Jim Erikson said in a Google+ hangout last night, “We’re building something big.”

The 1940 census is a big deal, and indexing it is a big challenge. Personally, I’m impressed by the spirit of cooperation we’re seeing among some major names in genealogy—FamilySearch.org, Archives.com, and FindMyPast.com. The way they’re working together to recruit and train volunteers for indexing efforts is a good sign, I think, for the future of genealogy research.

I also found out that not only can you give back to the community as a whole by indexing, but you can also give back to specific societies. That’s right, you can assign yourself to a volunteer group, and the group gets credit toward incentives for the indexing you do. So if you have a local or state society you’d like to support, and they’ve signed up with FamilySearch to sponsor volunteers, you can attach yourself to their efforts. It’s easy to do. The article “Join the Crowd” on the 1940 U.S. Census Community Blog gives a link to a short flyer listing the few easy steps. There’s a video and a list of participating societies, too.

Since I had already registered as an indexer, it only took me a couple of minutes to join a group. I chose to link with Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society in my home city. They’re a small but dedicated bunch, doing a lot of work with limited resources (and hopefully they’ll be getting a new website soon). So I’m happy to be able to support them. 

But I had lots of choices—Ohio alone has 35 different societies registered. You can choose one from any state--perhaps where your ancestors lived, or one that had given you help from a distance, or whatever you like.

You can even give back to yourself! The Census Community Project is running contests in which participants can win gift cards, Kindle Fires, and iPads, among other prizes. There's games and drawings. Visit the contests page to submit your name and be entered into all the contests.

So if you haven't already, join me in giving back to the genealogical community by signing up as 1940 census indexer. And give back to a local or state genealogical society while you’re at it. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Together, we can get this big thing done!

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