Thursday, March 29, 2012

What was my family like in 1940?

Following is a cool infographic from This is the company that won the contract to build and maintain the servers that will house the 1940 US Census images for NARA.

1940 census

Additional help to find your ancestor's enumeration district can be found by using Steve Morse's One-Step Website. I am very excited to spend time next week at NARA's 1940 Census website looking for some of my ancestors (including my mother and father and all my grandparents) in the 1940 US Census!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday's Tip ~ FamilySearch Indexing Advice

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have recently started indexing for, and I will be helping index the 1940 US Census when it is released on April 2.

the1940census.comFor new indexers, there is a brief instructional video and there are instructions within each "batch" that you index, which I do my best to follow, but after indexing a few batches, I still had questions about how to enter some items. For example, sometimes a name is printed at the top of a draft registration card, but the signature at the bottom didn't agree, or in entering a foreign place name for place of birth, how much effort should I make to correct the spelling of that place, or do I index it exactly as written?

Everything I'm indexing is also being indexed by someone else. When there is a difference in an entry, that entry goes to an arbitrator who reviews the entry and makes a decision on what the entry should be. Indexers can check their Arbitration Results and see how often they agree with the arbitrator. When a "batch" is not 100% accurate, it's a good idea to check to see why, in order to improve your indexing skills. (As somewhat of a perfectionist, I'm aiming for 100% accuracy.)

When I recently contacted FamilySearch to ask about why a couple of my indexed items were changed, I received an email directing me to a section of their website that I had not been aware of. New indexers may find the information at the following links helpful. Hopefully these links won't change so future indexers can find them from this post:

Indexing Resource Guide is a page with several links, including handwriting help.

Basic Indexing Guidelines are instructions for all projects. If project instructions, field helps, or project updates do not answer an indexing question, refer to Basic Indexing Guidelines for an answer to the question. At the bottom of this page are links to other helpful pages with specific advice for indexing names, place names, dates and ages.

Basic Indexing Guidelines: Names and Basic Indexing Guidelines: Place Names were particularly helpful for me.

I also just recently found what looks like a new or updated publication in PDF form: A User's Guide to FamilySearch Indexing (March 2012) which I plan to read through before April 2. If you think you'll have even just a little time in the next few months to help with indexing the 1940 US Census, please help out. We all will have ancestors that we won't be able to find without the index.

Tuesday's Tip is a daily blogging prompt from Geneabloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Matrilineal Monday ~ Susan Arville Chapin

My initial interest in my family's history arose after my paternal grandmother died and my father inherited all of her family history materials, which includeThe Chapin Genealogy, containing a very large proportion of the descendants of Dea. Samuel Chapin, who settled in Springfield, Mass. in 1642, compiled by Orange Chapin, and published in 1862. With handwritten notes and "bookmarks" (little pieces of paper inserted at each ancestor going back to Deacon Samuel Chapin) made by an ancestor, this intrigued me, as I wondered whose handwriting it was and who originally owned this book.

It is very likely that this book originally belonged to my great great grandmother, Susan Arville Chapin. According to this published genealogy, another published Chapin genealogy (The Chapin Book by Gilbert W. Chapin, published in 1924), and the sampler that she embroidered at the age of 12, she was born on June 9, 1820, in Ludlow, Massachusetts, to Orramel Chapin (1791-1866) and Susan Rood (1799-????). [Note: these two secondary sources are known to have plenty of errors, as the handwritten notes made by my ancestor attest to, but it gives a starting place to research.]

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Workday Wednesday ~ Uncle Chester, Census Enumerator

My great grandfather, Percy Hunter, was one of ten children. All of the siblings were born and died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, except for one brother, Chester Audley Hunter.

Great great uncle Chester married a woman from West Virginia and moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, where I found him in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census.

1930 U.S. Federal Census, Union City, Monongalia, West Virginia; Roll: 2548; Page: 12A;
Enumeration District: 27; Record for Chester A. Hunter
The last two names on this page are Chester A. Hunter and Minnie D. Hunter, who had married two years before. Farther to the right, under the occupation column, you see that Chester's occupation is Enumerator and his industry is Census. Then below that you see that he has signed off on this Enumeration District 31-27:

I can't wait to see if he was an enumerator in the 1940 US Census! And 72 years later, his great great niece (me) is a 1940 US Census Ambassador!

Following is a video created by the US Census Bureau to train enumerators on the correct procedures for filling out the 1940 US Census. About two minutes in, you can see how an enumerator might have interviewed a resident to obtain information about the households in his Enumeration District.

Workday Wednesday is a daily blogging prompt from Geneabloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

Friday, March 2, 2012

1940 US Census ~ You Can Help Index

When the 1940 US Census becomes available to the public on April 2, 2012, images will be free on (until the end of 2013), thanks to a partnership between and the National Archives. This means that anyone will be able to freely browse the images, but there will be no index so you'll have to know where your family members lived in order to find them. Volunteers are being recruited to help index the census through an indexing initiative called the 1940 US Census Community Project. You can sign up at 1940 US Census Community Project.

The 1940 US Census Community Project is co-sponsored by,, and The goal is to get the 1940 US Census indexed within six months, but if those interested can take a little time and index a few pages, perhaps it can be indexed even sooner!

the1940census.comIf you have never done indexing before, you are encouraged to download the software at and help out with some of their other ongoing indexing projects. (If you have a FamilySearch ID, you can log in with that username and password). There is a short instructional video, then you can start indexing. There are different difficulty levels and most "batches" usually don't take much more than 20-30 minutes to complete.

I've recently started indexing at FamilySearch and now that I've indexed a few batches, my advice is to read the instructions that are always in a box in the lower left hand side of the screen, and take advantage of the "Lookup" feature, found under Edit > Lookup, where you can help decipher a person or place name for which you can read most but not all of the letters.

I hope many genealogists will volunteer some time to index at least a few images for the 1940 US Census.