Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reflections of a 1940 US Census Indexer


Since the 1940 US Census went online April 2, 2012, I’ve indexed over 22 batches from 8 states.  My accuracy score is 97%.  If you’re not familiar with how indexing works, it’s fairly simple.  Two people index the same image.  If they agree, everything goes through just fine.  If they disagree, an arbitrator steps in to break the tie.  

I think my score would be higher if the arbitrators followed directions.  One of the rules is “type what is written.”  One arbitrator changed about 30 entries in one batch from “Same Place” to the name of the county where the people lived in 1935.  Needless to say that sent my accuracy score plummeting. 

Another rule is if the spelling of a city, county, or country is wrong, correct it.  I have done that, but I have also been overridden by an arbitrator who did not bother to check for correct spelling.  Score dropped again.

But I’m not venting.  The score is not why I index.

I index because Somebody indexed 1810-1930.  I index because there is Somebody who cares about the 24-year old widow in Mississippi washing and ironing other people’s clothes in order to support 3 children.  I index for the Somebody searching for the father of their Kansas ancestor whose siblings all have different last names.  I index for the grave diggers, saw mill laborers, handy-men, and truck farmers who led small lives full of dignity.

And I admit it -- I index hoping for a hint at a juicy story or at least an interesting surprise.  Today it finally happened in a batch from Sarasota, Florida.  Among the lawyers, bankers, real estate salesmen, managers of department stores and restaurants, there was a professional baseball player.  YAY – my first “famous” person.  Roy H. Spencer, his wife Anita, a daughter and his mother-in-law were there on Oak Street among the white-collar well-to-do.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

I Googled Roy H. (Hampton) Spencer.  He was a catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates when they won the World Series in 1925, and he had also played with the Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers where he finished his career.  I found a baseball card for 75 cents (aww – that’s sad) and an autograph for $106.  Pretty cool, eh?



If you haven’t already signed up to help index, it’s not too late.  Start at the 1940 US CensusCommunity Project website. The sooner we finish, the sooner an index will be available for all of us to find that illusive ancestor more easily.  In the meantime, enjoy this interactive map that shows the progress of indexing state by state.



DISCLAIMER: As part of the1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for an Amazon Kindle Fire.

1 comment:

  1. Who are these arbitrators? hmm...you should have told them you are an English teacher and to back off =)

    That was a good find of your baseball man!

    ReplyDelete