With the upcoming release of the 1940 census, an excellent opportunity exists to give back to the genealogy community by doing some indexing of my own. I had done some indexing of Ancestry.com records a few years ago, but the release of the census has created a new motivation to help out.
I started by becoming an Ambassador for the 1940 census by sharing my information and discoveries here on LongLostRelatives.net. The first stop is the1940census.com. That's where you, too, can sign up to help index the census. To get ready, you can get some practice by indexing other images. I chose an easy batch to work on, the World War I registrations. I selected five batches of 25 records each.
|Image from FamilySearch Indexing Software|
World War I Registration Database
Interpreting handwriting is essential to the project. I know how frustrated I have been when someone has not entered information correctly on an image I'm looking at. In this regard, I've found both Wikipedia and Google to help me index. If I am unable to interpret the name of a city or town, I search for it on Wikipedia. For example, I search for "cities in Kansas." I can peruse or search the page listing all cities, looking for something similar to the handwriting on the document. This technique has worked for all of the images I have indexed so far.
Surnames aren't quite so easy. This is where Google comes in. I type in my best interpretation of the surname and add the word "surname" to my search. This nearly always gives me the option that matches the image. It's certainly better than just guessing at the handwriting.
I've really found this to be a rewarding activity, and I really feel as though I am able to give a little back to the genealogy community.
Back to that indexing!