It is frustrating as a volunteer FamilySearch indexer to spend oodles of extra time making sure you get every last name and detail deciphered correctly, only to have an arbitrator come back and undo your hard work because they didn't spend the same quality time. Or to have one of your batches come back with multiple arbitrated changes -- for situations such as blank lines and 1935 place of residence where you feel you have followed the rules correctly. From an arbitrator's point of view, however, I can say it is equally frustrating having to ding an excellent indexer's arbitration results for a easily avoided, minor error repeated over and over.
Just so we are all on the same page here, this is not a rant or grumble about poor indexing or arbitration -- far from it. I applaud everyone who is volunteering their time to help make the 1940 census more easily available to all (not to mention that there are many genealogical discoveries to be made with the use of an index). We aren't all perfect (at least I'm not). But for all of you out there helping to index and/or arbitrate the 1940 US Census index for FamilySearch, here are some tips and resources to help us all get it right and eliminate most if not all of the frustration.
Read the Instructions
It isn't just new indexers who need to read the project instructions. Even if you are a long-time FamilySearch indexer, each project has its own quirks and rules, and the 1940 U.S. census is definitely no exception. Read the online project instructions, as well as each of the individual "Field Helps" within the indexing tool so you will know how to handle situations such as blank lines, initials, crossed out text, etc. You'll also want to make sure you know about the dropdown lists for standardized answers for the relationship and locality fields.
FamilySearch Indexing: 1940 Federal Census
Not all instructions are 1940 Census specific, so if you can't find it above then look for the answer in this helpful User's Guide to FamilySearch Indexing.
Stay Current with Updates
A large number of the indexing and arbitration errors that I've been seeing this past week have been addressed in the most current project updates. For example, you are supposed to use <blank> to indicate the place of residence in 1935 for children under age 5, even if "Same Place" or a city name is written in, but this rule is commonly missed by indexers and arbitrators -- at least in my experience so far.
FamilySearch Indexing - Project Updates
Adjust the Highlights
As you tab through an indexing project, the field you are currently indexing is highlighted in light blue which is a big help in keeping your place on the correct line and column when indexing a large record like a census page. If you don't see these highlights, then check the "View" tab in the FamilySearch Indexing program to make sure that "Show Highlights" is checked. If you do plan to use highlights (and I highly recommend it), then I would suggest checking to be sure these highlights are lined up correctly with your record whenever you first open a new record batch. Often they aren't initially lined up just right, but fixing this is easy. I personally just use the click and drag method -- selecting each of the 4 corners individually and moving them to the correct spot.
Adjusting Highlights - A Visual Guide
1940 Census Indexing - Things to Watch Out For
- Index the number of the household in column 3, not the house number in column 2.
- Index middle initials and middle names in the Given Names field along with the first names. Don't enter periods after initials.
- Index what you see in the name fields, even if it is a common given name or surname that appears to have been misspelled by the enumerator, or has an extra letter thrown in.
- If nothing was recorded in the Titles or Terms column, press Tab to skip the field. Do NOT mark it with a <blank>.
- In general, enter the correct, standardized spellings for Relationship and Place Names. Check the Lookup column (usually located via the dropdown menu next to the particular field when using Windows or under the Edit menu on a Mac) for the standardized lists. Using this list ensures you correctly spell Pittsburgh with an "h" and don't get dinged for using "step-daughter" (the preferred form is "stepdaughter").
- If "Same House" or "Same Place" was recorded in or across columns 17, 18, or 19, index that phrase (or any abbreviation of it) in the City of Residence field, and use Ctrl+B to mark the County and State fields as blank. If the term is abbreviated, such as "S. Place," then type the abbreviation as written. Be sure to watch for changes between "Same House" and "Same Place" as they mean different things and are not interchangeable.
- If localities were recorded in the wrong jurisdictions (such as a state name in the 1935 City of Residence field), just index what you see.
- If a line does not have a name on it, mark the entire record blank by pressing Ctrl+Shift+B. Do NOT index the line number.
- If your batch consists of either an empty/blank census form, or one with only information in the header (i.e. no names or places enumerated on any of the lines 1-40), then mark the entire image as <blank>, NOT as "No Extractable Data."
- Even when "Same House" or a place name was entered in columns 17, 18, or 19, for City, County, and State of Residence for children under the age of 5, mark the field as <blank>. If "Same House," etc. was entered in the Place of Birth column, type what you see.
Need Another Set of Eyes? How to Share a Batch
When you need help making out a name or could just use a second set of eyes to look over your work, FamilySearch Indexing makes it easy to share your batch with others. People with whom you share your batch number will be able to download and see your batch in order to offer input, but you as the indexer (the person sharing the batch) will retain complete control over the batch such as saving changes and submitting the batch for arbitration.
Using the Share Batch Feature of Indexing
While we are talking about a second set of eyes, there's a wonderful group on Facebook full of awesome volunteer indexers who will answer just about any indexing question you may have, or are happy to provide input on hard-to-read names -- usually within minutes! No complaining allowed in this group -- just a positive place to get answers, support, and feedback without negativity. Check out the Unofficial Share Batch Group for FamilySearch Indexing!
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