I've signed up to be a 1940 Blog Ambassador, to help promote the US Census Community Project. It's being sponsored by Archives.com, FamilySearch and findmypast.com in conjunction with society sponsors, the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG); the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS); and the National Genealogical Society (NGS).
To you non-genealogists reading this, let me explain what will happen on April 2, 2012: The National Archives will release the 1940 US Census. Each census is kept private for 72 years, so the release of a census is a Very Big Deal to those of us interested in family history. The release of THIS census in particular is an even bigger deal, because most of us know someone who was listed on it. The US Census is a snapshot of our nation at a critical time in history. We were pulling out of the Great Depression even as we were becoming embroiled in world events. Soon the nation would go to war.
The 1940 census has more than historic significance. Today's genealogists are versed in technology. We're used to visiting websites, searching indices, and downloading tons of information. So the pairing of family historians and electronic wizardry has created a great opportunity, because the 1940 US Census will be available as free digital images. But it does not yet have an index, which means searching page by page (you can narrow it down if you know your ancestor's address in 1940). And that's where genealogists and genealogical societies come in. We have an opportunity to create that index, working together. You can help index from your own computer, tablet, etc. Talk about a grass-roots effort, this is it!
Individual genealogists, as well as genealogical societies, are mobilizing and preparing for the task at hand. It requires a simple program download — and watching a few tutorials will help — but essentially, anyone can do it, and everyone is needed. The more willing hands, the quicker the index is created and posted for everyone to use.
I've downloaded the indexing program; watched a tutorial or two; and listened to a FamilySearch staffer explain the indexing process at the 2011 FGS Conference in Springfield. But I haven't actually done any indexing yet. I'm newsletter editor for the Indiana Genealogical Society, which plans to mobilize its members to attack - er, INDEX, the state of Indiana. How about helping coordinate efforts where you live?
Although we'll have to wait until April 2 to start indexing the 1940 US Census, we can become familiar with the process by assisting in other indexing projects being undertaken by FamilySearch. You can sign up to index by visiting http://the1940census.com/ There is a link at the top of the page where societies can get more information on how to participate.
In future posts, I'll describe my indexing experiences; give you a sense of the United States in 1940; talk about what one can find on the 1940, and much more. It's 39 days and counting... stay tuned, and join in.