by D. Joshua Taylor of findmypast.com
The release of a new census is certainly a momentous occasion for any genealogist. The 1940 census not only provides access to records previously unseen by the general public; it officially launches the largest community service project in the history of genealogy and family history.
The community's support of the project is far reaching, each of the three community project partners are committed to providing free access to the 1940 census for a period of time, allowing millions of Americans to jumpstart their own family history. The project is also strongly supported by the nation’s leading genealogical organizations, including the National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies. It can easily be said that the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project is a new generation of cooperation within the genealogical community, and presents a promising model for the future.
A unique aspect of the project includes participation from over 600 genealogical and historical societies from across the United States. Their members will work together to index names, ages, birthplaces, and other key information as quickly and accurately as possible. To think that volunteers from the Austin Genealogical Society and the Dallas Genealogical Society will index the state of Texas who are intimately acquainted with the names and intricacies of their own communities provides a promising aspect of the index’s accuracy and quick completion.
Society members will be joined by thousands of other volunteers to complete the project, each bringing their own personal knowledge and expertise to the index. Who could ask for a better team of indexers?
The massive volunteer force will undoubtedly spark some new interest in family history and rekindle fond memories of America in the 1940s.
- For Crowley, Louisiana, the census represents a single moment in history before the disastrous flood, which swept through the town in August 1940. Perhaps the memories of mail being floated across the town in washtubs due to the rising waters will be rekindled from the census pages.
- For Belford, Virginia the 1940 Census will include countless numbers of young men who gave their life on D-Day. The 1940 census of Belford, which has the distinction of suffering the highest single-day loss of any other U.S. town during World War II, is likely to bring back fond - and perhaps painful memories of a generation lost.
- While communities will look back to 1940, many individuals will discover relatives through the work of other indexers.
- For some, like myself, this might be the first census in which a dear relative appears. My grandmother, who was born just days after the 1930 enumeration should appear, along with her 12 siblings (including two sets of twins) living at Home Acres, the Allison family farm in Idaho.
- For my grandmother, an avid indexer herself will be fortunate enough to index the community she grew up in, allowing her to remember her neighbors, friends, and relatives as they were in 1940. Still, it is more likely that someone else, whose name I will never know, will index my grandmother's family. My gratitude to the indexer who comes across the family cannot be overstated. How can we not give back?
As volunteers from across the United States band together with members of genealogical societies, and leading organizations within the family history community to index the 1940 census, we all must do our part. The impact of the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project will not only be measured in the completion of the 1940 U.S. census index, but will have lasting impacts of family history for generations to come. What are you waiting for?