1940 census goes live April 2, expecting 250,000 thousand indexers

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 10:24 a.m. MST

The National Archives and Records Administration and Archives.com have set up at site that will host the 1940 Census on April 2.

1940census.archives.gov

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REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Archives.com and the National Archives have set up a site where the 1940 census will digitally be made available free of charge beginning April 2, which will end a 72-year wait for the records.

Archives.com, the Redwood City, Calif.,-based family history company, has partnered with the National Archives and Records Administration to help digitize the anticipated record set, which consists of about 3.8 million images and 131 million names.

“This collection is extraordinarily important because of the links to parents, grandparents and great-grandparents that will be accessible to family historians for the first time,” Joe Godfrey, senior director of product at Archives.com, said in a statement. “Additionally, we’re thrilled to sponsor the 1940 Census Community Project, and plan to make the 1940 census name index available on Archives.com as the volunteer effort progresses.”

Though the records will be available starting in early April, they will not be indexed, which means they will not be searchable by name.

FamilySearch International, Archives.com and FindMyPast.com have teamed up as sponsors of the 1940 Census Community Project, a joint effort to leverage volunteers to index the entire census.

Each partner in the effort will have access to a copy of the index on its respective websites.

“If we can really make this work, we think it’s scalable,” said Dennis Brimhall, chief executive officer of FamilySearch who recently took the helm on Jan. 2, 2012. “We think we can use it in a lot of other places. This is really a good relationship. The goal is to make [the 1940 census] open, and that’s terrific.”

FamilySearch currently has about 140,000 volunteer indexers that help make digital documents searchable by name.

With the excitement over the new census, that number could skyrocket because of the national visibility the indexing project could get, said Jay Verkler, former CEO of FamilySearch.org, in an interview with the Deseret News at the RootsTech Conference last month.

“I think you could see that number in the quarter million or 400,000 range even, which would be really cool,” said Verkler, who is now taking the time to be with his family after serving as CEO for the past decade. “FamilySearch has really worked at building an ecosystem of other companies. It’s a non-profit organization fully focused on people enjoying genealogy.”

Verkler is serving as a consultant to the company for a few months during the change in leadership.

In the past, FamilySearch has made more than 2.4 billion names available from 870 collections through its indexing efforts by more than 250,000 total volunteers.

The anticipated increase in indexers for FamilySearch, combined with the efforts from Archives.com and FindMyPast, will be a landmark crowdsourcing event, according to FamilySearch executives.

“It will probably be the most historic crowdsourcing project ever done to date,” Paul Nauta, public affairs manager for FamilySearch, said in an interview with the Deseret News. “There’s going to be a lot of emotional interest in this particular census.”

The release of the 1940 census is also a significant time for FindMyPast.com. The launch of the records also marks the U.K.-based website's entry into the United States.

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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