Friday, July 27, 2012

Follow-Up Friday - 1940 Census Indexing, and Toastites

I like to highlight cogent, interesting and useful comments to my blog posts from the previous week on Follow-Up Friday.  Here is this week's crop of highlighted comments, along with my additional thoughts:

1)  There were comments on my series which culminated in 1940 U.S. Census Comparisons - Summary and Conclusions (posted 23 July 2012):

*  Jude said:  "I've indexed over 22,000 names on Family Search. Sometimes, I'll be completely wrong on a name, and when I go back to the name on a second pass, I'll suddenly know that what looked like Ophiel is really Pearl. I wish I were perfect at it, but I'm at 98% accuracy, and after about 2,000 names, I got a lot better. I think that everyone who is doing Family Search's indexing, whether LDS or not (I'm not) really, really cares about getting every name right. I know that *I* feel that way. Unfortunately, perfection isn't possible."

*  Michael W. McCormick noted:  "Thanks for the timely, thorough analysis of these two indexing efforts. At RootsTech an Asian company presented on indexing and I heard does a subcontracted foreign single pass index. I think they might be using them, but I could be wrong. The RootsTech class was impressive though so I thought they'd do a good job. All things considered for a one pass, probably foreign index, it is really good. I'm glad the community can hopefully get insights from this--whatever those might be."

*  Sharon commented: "Thanks for the analysis. I was a bit surprised by how different the results were between the two companies. In time, however, this may change. Ancestry permits corrections to their 1940 census indexing by users; FamilySearch does not. So if it is wrong on FamilySearch, it will stay that way forever. If it is wrong on Ancestry, it might get corrected. 

"This makes it even more important for Ancestry users to submit corrections when they do locate an indexing error. You can even add alternate names if it is not truly an indexing error. For example, the census itself may have been wrong, or perhaps only initials were used instead of a full given name. So if you see something in the Ancestry index that can be improved, please submit a correction or alternate name."

*  Dave said: "This does confirm my experience with both indexes. I recall reading that Ancestry paid a company to index for them. Not sure about onshore/offshore, but based on what I've seen there were some pretty basic mistakes.  Regarding being able to submit corrections on the Ancestry indexes perhaps Ancestry should credit my account for each entry that I fix? If they are willing to pay a company to do it, why should I fix it for free? I'm thinking a nickel per correction would be good. ;-)"

*  Brian W. Schaar noted: "Another thought – is what is written down the correct entry for that person: is the names, date, or locations correct? There could have been communication problems between the informant and the enumerator – thus the inaccurate entries.

"As a FSI indexer and arbitrator – even with several aids at my disposal – it was hard deciphering between the ‘a’ and ‘o’, or ‘e’ and ‘I’. FSI guidelines were to TWYS (type what you see) – not being influenced with the 1930 Census or other sources.

"I know record indexing accuracy is important, but my main excitement will be when I find my family records – with exact spelling or with other filtering aids. I will provide my searching results when Illinois becomes searchable on FamilySearch or Ancestry."

My comments:  I appreciate the views expressed in these comments.  I agree with Jude that it is impossible to be "perfect"in the indexing (having failed myself so many times when indexing).  My accuracy rate was about 98% also (but that's relative to the arbitrated values). 

Sharon noted that users can add corrections or clarifications to the index, which will gradually make the index better. I like Dave's idea - Ancestry should reward corrections to their indexing.

Brian's right - there may have been informant and enumerator problems.  That's why I compared only the index entry vs. the handwritten entry on the census form, and judged the accuracy of the index.  The value of a good index is that the searcher can find their people.  I look forward to his searching results from Illinois.

* Caroline Gurney noted:  "You might want to contact FMP with regard to your point about source citations. In British genealogy we do not use the source citation format you use in the US. It is up to the person using the source to construct their own citation - a variety of different formats being equally acceptable. All we need from the data provider is information about the archive holding the original record and its call number. Since FMP is a British company, they may not realise the different system and expectations in the US."

*  BarbJ commented:  "I subscribed today as well, but ran into frustrations quite quickly. The first was when I downloaded images. The record (Irish Land Records) had 3 images, but downloaded the same image 3 times no matter what image was being viewed in the viewer.

"A search on Henry Sampey came up with 37 results. But when page 3 of the results came up while paging through the results, it said "0 records found" and I could not page back. Also on that same result page, if I clicked on "Land Records" which showed 6 results, I received the "0 records found" message. So there is something wrong with the search facility. I could not find a way to contact the company for questions and the FAQ was not helpful. I hope I have not wasted my $54.90."

My comments:  Thank you, Caroline, for the helpful suggestion.  For a researcher unfamiliar with English records, the sourcing may be a challenge.  Evidence! Explained may be helpful for American researchers. Examples of source citations for an English Vital Certificate, Civil Registration, Parish Registers, Census, and other record sources may be helpful too - in both English and American versions.  

BarbJ's problem is similar to mine to date - the search works differently on FindMyPast than on other websites, and it gets frustrating when it doesn't produce the results you expect.  I will have more Search examples in future posts.  It's not clear to me if the American version of searching works differently than searching the UK version of  The problem with the image download is problematical, and I encourage Barb to reach out to FindMyPast to try to help her obtain what she wants and paid for.  Barb - please email me at and I'll try to connect you with them.

3)  On my post International Record Collections on (25 July 2012):

*  Doris Wheeler commented: "I'm disappointed that all these companies fail to recognize that names of collections are virtually useless to those of us who are not intimately familiar with the places being researched. Every contents listing or index should include, at the very least, the dates and the county/parish/country included in the collection. Only then can we fairly evaluate the potential value of the collection to us."

My response:  I agree with Doris - more detail about a collection is preferable to a summary.  The information received from that I posted was from the FindMyPast office, and was a summary.  You can find a complete list of the record collections on the site at down and click on "Credits Explained").  However, the list does not provide the inclusive years for the collections.  That list is more explanatory than the list provided by

*  Lynne Carothers noted: "We had Toastites pie irons growing up. In fact, we still have them today. You can buy them at any camping store. I remember making sandwiches over a campfire as well as on the stove. We use them for dessert pies - especially with the kids. They are lots of fun."

My comment:  I can see a run on Toastites by genealogists...we'll have to have a cookout outing at Jamboree (or another conference) to make Toastites, S'mores and other goodies out of recipes in Gena Ortega's book!

Thank you to my readers for their cogent, interesting and useful comments - please keep them coming!!

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

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