More than 132 Million names from the 1940 U.S. Census are now searchable on The Church's FamilySearch website. The work, which was supposed to take a year, was completed in just four months thanks to the successful partnership between a consortium of national genealogical organizations, FamilySearch.org and more than 163,000 volunteers.
The indexing project, a cooperative effort between the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Archives.com, FamilySearch.org, findmypast.com, ProQuest and numerous genealogical societies, utilized the efforts of volunteers to complete the process in an exceptional manner. Begun in April, the project was not expected to be completed until October. The efficiency of the cooperative effort led David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, to praise the project as “a perfect example of crowdsourcing.”
“The magnitude of this volunteer transcription effort is really unprecedented,” said Michael Judson, who helped coordinate the volunteer effort on behalf of FamilySearch. “Millions of records were indexed every week from April to August. On one record-setting day, more than 46,000 volunteers processed more than 10 million records.”
Transcription work on the unique and culturally informative 1940 census involved participants of all ages, nationalities and faiths. Though members of the Church (Mormons) formed the largest group of volunteers, individuals from all walks of life, including members of more than 430 genealogical societies, made significant contributions as well.
NARA, in its preparation for the April census release, digitized over 4,000 rolls of microfilm to create the largest and most comprehensive release of census records and the first available in digital form. The census contains a total of more than 3.8 million images. The records contain valuable historical perspectives on the effects of the Great Depression, the economic concerns, the educational and employment achievements of the United States population immediately prior to World War II.
Family connections already uncovered with the posting of the 1940 census information bring meaning to individual researchers:
“A long-lost cousin tracked me down yesterday using the newly posted 1940 census,” one genealogist reported. “We had no idea this branch of my dad's family existed and survived World War II in Poland. We’d understood this line was totally eradicated during the Holocaust. It turns out that his father is still alive and living in New York City. Several cousins on my side of the family are now planning a small family reunion this fall.”
Another researcher said: “I found my dad listed as a paper boy in Arizona — the job he held before he and four friends left after their 1940 high school graduation to sign on for the military. My dad was turned down for the Navy, but joined the Army. All three of his friends were stationed on the “Arizona” at Pearl Harbor.”
A third researcher had this to say: “In the 1940 census listings I found my dad and his brother living with their birth parents. By the next census they, and their three siblings born in the 40s, were adopted by grandparents and given a new name. The 1940 record is the only remaining public record I’ve found with my dad’s original last name!”
Valuable details that define family relationships appear in the documents of the census, and although the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project has ended, the need to index genealogical records is ongoing and expected to last for many more years.
For more information on FamilySearch indexing or how to become a volunteer, visit http://indexing.familysearch.org.