Friday, April 6, 2012

Follow-Up Friday - Reader's Comments Answered

The following reader comments and emails from the last two weeks raise issues or provide useful information:

1)  On Tuesday's Tip -'s 1940s-Era Collections are Free until 10 AprilAnonymous asked:

"Any idea how "later" in 2012 everything will be indexed? The problem with the enumeration system is that it assumes you know it - I'm eager to find my grandparents, but they moved around the town a lot so I have no idea what district they would've been in at that point in their lives."

My response:   There are three ongoing Indexing projects - at, and FamilySearch Indexing.  At this writing, Ancestry has two states completed (Delaware and Nevada), and MyHeritage has one county indexed (Bristol, Rhode Island).  FamilySearch has a number of states in work.  These projects are ongoing, and it looks to me that  they will be added piecemeal to the sites as they become available.  Note that the images, and indexes, are currently FREE on all of the sites.  My advice is to monitor the three sites, and to contribute to the Indexing process as often as possible.  The estimates that the Indexing would be completed late in 2012 was probably pessimistic - there may be an index from every state in less than three months, since three organizations are working on it.

If it's a small town you're searching, then you could browse through the several enumeration districts in hopes of finding them.

2)  On My 1940 U.S. Census Expectations, GGM Scott noted:

"...My guess is that the servers at Steve Morse's site will crash, maybe sooner than the actual census site. So I decided to have my list ahead of time.

"I completely agree with your 'expectations' - the only addition I would make is to set a time-table for how long it will take me to get ticked-off at those who haven't paid attention to all the helpful information that has been available for the longest kind of time! And, following that, how long it will take me to get over being ticked-off, and get on with it. I'm getting pretty good at getting past that less-than-charming-quality in my own personality, so will be willing to help others before too much time has passed. 

"I believe one of the things that will happen is the those who have only begun to research their families recently, and have been able to utilize the internet for nearly all of their findings, including 'primary sources' in many instances, are going to get a taste of what research was like prior to the internet. Are they ready for a line-by-line study of an entire County, for the misspelled name of their gr-grandmother on their dad's side, or the alternate name or nickname of the second-cousin of their mother?"

My response:  Excellent observations and predictions.  I don't think the Steve Morse site ever crashed, but it sure was popular!  Well-done to Steve, Joel and their volunteers for creating something that worked well and really helped the genealogy community.

I got ticked off too - it was very frustrating on Monday, 2 April.  I was very happy when Ancestry got my San Diego folks online on Monday night, and that MyHeritage got my Massachusetts folks online on Tuesday.  Kudos to them.

I monitor several online mailing lists, and the level of knowledge displayed on these lists demonstrated to me that many persons really had no clue how to find Enumeration Districts, where to or how to search the 1940 census.  The researchers that read blogs and society newsletters are a relatively small number - perhaps only 20% of the genealogy community. 

a)  Geolover noted:  "Randy, thanks for this account. I noticed that the source-citation pane does not have a place for an author.  My understanding is that two of your wishes that I share are not on a present agenda. There is no present plan to have a source citation for each event, nor the option for more than one citation for each event, nor a source citation option specifically for relationships."

b)  Sue Maxwell noted:  "This is really an issue that FamilySearch needs to deal with. They are trying to make it easy enough that MOST people will add a source. However, it will probably never be as detailed as us genealogists want it to be. The best solution I can suggest is to go to FEEDBACK on the site and voice your opinions. They DO listen to feedback and the more feedback saying the same similar thing, the more they listen. So feedback every chance you get."

My comments:  Thank you both for the information.  I encourage my readers to provide feedback on this issue to FamilySearch.

4)  I received an email concerning privacy issues in the 1940 US Census on 3 April, saying:

"I think that all of your tips about searching the 1940 census are great. I wouldn’t have thought to find the address of the people I’m looking up by using the voter registration directory. A lot of people are concerned about privacy because many of the people in the census are still alive. Do you agree that this could potentially be a privacy issue? I’m personally looking forward to when the data is searchable by name."

My response via email on 5 April was:

"I do not think that the 1940 US Census release constitutes a privacy issue.  There are no Social Security numbers, no mother's maiden names, no birth dates, etc.  Just address, name, sex, race, age, location, employment, income and other indicators, all of which is secondary information told to a person who wrote it down.  The enumerator didn't care if it was accurate or not - he was paid by the person listed.  Someone looking to steal an identity of a person listed in the 1940 census has a much better chance of doing it by stealing mail, or wallets, or credit card numbers.  Thieves are not smart enough to figure out a person's mother's maiden name from census records that list her married name.  

"Information on living persons has always been available, in print and online, in voter registers, vital records indexes, city directories, telephone books, business directories, court records, property records, etc.  Any one of us can buy a day or week or month on an online public records site (e.g., and find out details about any person that would aid them in stealing an identity.  The right to privacy in the Constitution is to prevent the government from seizing our papers and possessions without due process, not that we are anonymous or should not be listed in a government or business record.  My interpretation - I'm not a lawyer."

That's it for this week's Follow-Up Friday.  If you have comments or questions, please make them on the specific blog post, or email me at  

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

GeneJ said...

For those of us citation geeks out there, Ancestry has put the NARA microfilm and roll number in the image URL. Thank you Ancestry! --GJ