Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1940 US Census Index Comparison: Who will be America’s Next Index Star?

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings has proposed a methodology for comparing how Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org are doing at compiling an index for the 1940 US Census.  You can read the full description at his website HERE, but basically the steps are these:
1.       Select one name and one state.
2.       Create a chart and list all the names from Ancestry.  Note the birth year and state.
3.       In a new column on the same chart, record findings from FamilySearch noting whether the information is the same or different.  If a name does not appear at all, put an X.
4.       If names from one index do not appear on the other, then your next step is to find them.  Likely the name is entered in a different form.

Randy’s latest project piqued my interest right away because I just recently experienced the kind of problem presented in #4.  I had looked on Ancestry for my great-aunt Mae Holland in order to feature her family for my Census Sunday series.  She wasn’t there.  When I looked in FamilySearch’s index, I found her right away. 

As soon as I saw the enumerator’s handwriting, I guessed correctly that Ancestry had her indexed as Halland rather than Holland. 

So, I decided to follow Randy’s lead and look at some more names.  I started with Jollett in Virginia because I knew there would not be very many.  Here is my chart:

Both FamilySearch and Ancestry listed the same names, but not in the same order.  Ancestry lists by birthdate while FamilySearch lists by county or enumeration district.  There are only 2 differences.  

Ancestry indexed Nannie V but FamilySearch says Nancy V.  Actually, Nannie V is correct.  But had I been indexing this page and not been a descendent, I would probably have said Nancy too.  I have to give my vote to Ancestry knowing it IS correct even though it doesn’t LOOK correct.

The other difference is Ann from Ancestry and Anne from FamilySearch.  It looks like Anne to me.  My vote goes to FamilySearch.

But what really surprises me – in a GOOD way – is that Ancestry and FamilySearch were both able to get Jollett from the poor handwriting of Mrs. Kate McLean, the enumerator. 

She didn’t do anybody any favors.

Based on this one search, the vote for the Next Index Star is tied.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. That's very interesting! That's how we ended up with a Humpton in Lucy's household instead of a Thornton. I was so glad to find out that noone in my family actually named a child Humpton.

  2. I've always had an interest in tracing my family lineage, but, quite honestly, I don't know where to squeeze in another 5 minutes in the day. I know it must be fun, even exciting. Have a blast. I will get to it one day, I promise.