Posted by Nick Cifuentes on April 17, 2012 in Collections

Anna and Joe Dansbury

William Dansbury’s first wife died in 1938, leaving him with three small children. By 1942 he married his first wife’s cousin, my grandmother, Anna Steffes, and had another baby boy. I’m not exactly sure how quickly he remarried but 1940 is a critical year. Were they married yet? Or was my grandmother still working as a teacher?  By some standards she was a bit of an old maid. Anna was born in 1907 so by 1938 she was already 31 years old. I know almost nothing about her life before she was married. She was the oldest of ten children. She considered joining a convent at one point. Anna was deeply religious and went to church every day until she was in her late eighties.

The 1940 census will tell me about how William was managing his young family. Did his mother Ellen move in to help him? How long was he single?

William died in 1946 leaving Anna a widow with three step-children and three young children of her own.  I’ll never know how she managed it!  I’m not sure when he bought the house my father grew up in but the family remained in the same neighborhood for 60 years.  I can read about William in the local newspaper because he was a policeman. Someone who worked for the local paper must have lived nearby because the boys are mentioned in the paper frequently.

But Anna isn’t mentioned at all. I think she was too busy working to go to parties or school events. I’d like to find out if Anna was still living with her parents in 1940 and helping with the younger children, or if she is a new bride living with William and his three children.

Laura Dansbury, Director, Product Management


  1. BobNY

    1940 U.S. Census: ONE QUESTION Waiting to be Answered

    Are you ever going to give an update to your indexing progress?
    For the social media maven to have the cojones to post this shows just how out of touch ACOM executives are with their paying customers.

    Many would like to know which of the following scenarios is closest to the truth:
    – we have changed our mind and will not be giving regular updates — so get over it
    – we are going to pleasantly surprise you and dump a whole bunch of indexed states all at once
    – there are so many problems with the uploaded images and the algorithm to link them to the index that we stopped indexing until we fix those problems
    – we really don’t care about our customers so leave us alone.

  2. Denisa

    I agree with the above. I am one of the few actually waiting on Washington, DC. My grandparents lived in DC. Since the status has been “in process” for 11 days now, it makes me wonder why.

    Please let us know what’s going on!

  3. Diana

    I know we are all anxiously awaiting the indexed census but if you look at the census’ that are being transcribed it is a tremendous undertaking. I’ve been trying to find my in-laws in Syracuse, NY. Found their parents but haven’t been able to find them yet. We don’t know how many are working on indexing. So, I think we all just need to be patient. Perhaps ancestry should have said you can look at the census as of April 2 but it won’t be indexed until …. that way we would have an idea what to expect.

  4. BobNY


    The issue is not indexing. The issues are communication, transparency and credibility. Not even ACOM has said be patient; they havern’t said anything.

    BTW, they did say you can look at the census on 2 April and the index is scheduled as a 2012 deliverable. But, they also said “we’re not slowing down anytime soon. We’re continuing to index states. And we’ll let you know the minute the ones you’re interested in are ready.” Since they have not told us in 12 days that any additional state is ready, one has to assume that they have not completed any state indexing since that time. Therefore, I stand by my questions in the previous post.

    My biggest gripe, however, is their lame attempt at so-called social media in the absence of a buttoned-up operation of their basic business.

  5. Lincoln Lowery

    I would like to have an update on indexing. I can deal with whatever it is, but it would just be nice to have a hint about what is going on.

  6. Jeff

    Yes, I am like the others here. I would like an update on the indexing. is updating their progress on indexing. Why can’t Ancestry?

  7. Dian

    I agree that some communication would be nice…even an “it is taking longer than anticipated because…” would be nice. Jeff, is further along? I’ll have to have a look.

  8. BobNY

    From the 1940 census site:

    *Image and Index status was updated on 18 Apr 2012.

    State: District of Columbia
    Image Status: Completed 4/2/2012
    Indexing Status: In Process*

    So, the assumption is fact. In 12 days, DC indexing has not been completed and no new state has been started. Therefore, 2 of my scenarios have been rendered moot and in the absence of any further word from ACOM, one must infer that their approach is either:
    – there are so many problems with the uploaded images and the algorithm to link them to the index that we stopped indexing until we fix those problems
    – we really don’t care about our customers so leave us alone.

  9. Jeff

    #7 Dian,

    As of 11:30 CDT,’s 1940 Census update stood at;

    Oregon – 99%
    Utah – 90%
    Idaho – 85%
    Nevada – 77%
    Wyoming – 71%
    Colorado – 99%
    California – 14%
    Arizona – 51%
    Kansas – 99%
    Indiana – 83%
    Virginia – 94%
    New Hampshire – 91%
    Florida – 37%
    Alaska – 55%
    Delaware – 100%

    Their overall progress, according to their update page, is at 12.5%.

    If FamilySearch can do that, why can’t Ancestry? HMMMM?

  10. dannieb

    Yes, familysearch has more states listed as partially indexed, but still only Delaware searchable, as far as I can see. They are showing other states at 99%, but not searchable.

    MyHeritage has only Rhode Island searchable.
    Findmypast has no states indexed/searchable.

    I understand that it is a huge task, but how long would take to write a short customer communication document to keep us informed?

  11. Scott

    I see the date has been updated to today, but nothing else changed. Leaves the impression of a “Just update the date so people will stop complaining about it”. I know it takes a long time to index things, but I can’t imagine that after all this time since the last update that NOTHING has happened, and they’re still just working on Washington D.C. If it takes a couple of weeks just to do D.C., we’re in for a looooong haul. I’m joking of course, because I’m sure they’re working on more than just D.C….it couldn’t take that long for just one city….but it sure would be nice if the update actually reflected WHAT they’re working on.

    Man, I hate sounding like a complainer, but there it is. LOL

  12. BEE

    Interesting that I got an email telling of a “hint” for a relative in Maine – when I clicked on it, there was a fleeting message showing it was the 1940 census! Ahm – progress! That message disappeared, and I now have “ghost hints” on another tree! “There are currently no Recent hints in the Tree. Please try a different search.” – yet it says there are two hints.
    I have another tree with more “ghost hints” – I called customer service and was told that when whatever problem that was happening at the time with a whole bunch of “hints” appearing was corrected, they would go away. They haven’t! Yes, I cleared cache, etc. but they are still there.

  13. Dannieb Re: # 13

    I’m personally glad that they are duplicating them here. They are much easier to read here than on that awful ‘Sticky Notes’ page with the multi-hued greens and light text. They really need to re-think that whole setup and keep the elderly viewer in mind.

    Andy Hatchett

  14. Stuart

    Still no communication about anything relating to the indexing from Ancestry. Incredible. FamilySearch has almost done 13%, so unless Ancestry has a huge surprise coming, it looks like their index will be the place to look for a while.

    Why can’t all of these sites collaborate and share their resources on making a common index, at the very least a minimal one with name, age and sheet number? If they had done that, we would probably be looking at 50% by now. But several sites are just duplicating resources to race each other.

    My bet is with the crowdsourcing initiative.

  15. It doesn’t matter if FamilySearch has done 99% if that 99% isn’t available to be searched- and the 13% that they have done so far isn’t.

    Only 100% completed states searchable by name are important to most people. Any other number is just PR crap to make the organization look good.

  16. Tony Knight

    From the progress reports it would seem that by the end of the month they could have 10 or more states complete. Ancestry is offering no expectation that they will have added any at all.
    If any criticism can be levelled against FS, it is that a more structured approach, ie a limited number of states in progress at any one time would have resulted in more states completed now, but I suspect this is governed more by the volunteers than FS.
    MyHeritage is making slow progress also, but is also slightly misleading as despited the words it uses, it does not yet seem to have completed Rhode Island.

  17. Jeff

    #17 Andy,

    You missed the point. It is that FS is publicly stating their progress even if a state isn’t 100% complete. Ancestry’s second update is the same as their first update. It was lacking.

  18. Carole

    How does one reconcile the statement by on another blog that says “By the way, we’re not slowing down anytime soon. We’re continuing to index states. And we’ll let you know the minute the ones you’re interested in are ready.” with the fact there has been absolutely no tangible evidence of progress. Why can’t give an update as to what they have been doing for the past 13 days. They had announced they were working around the clock on this. The total lack of transparency and unwillingness to share any information is reflecting very poorly on the company. I realize they are in competition with other genealogy vendors also working on indexing the 1940 census, but not saying anything when it is obvious there are problems is not a prudent marketing strategy. Your loyal customers are becoming very disenchanted with you. You are starting to run a real risk you will lose us.

  19. Stuart

    It is true that FamilySearch’s 13% is not yet searchable. But at least they are giving progress reports. And as an active volunteer on the indexing project, seeing what batches are going out and what I have been doing, and seeing those totals reflect my efforts, it certainly appears to me that it is relatively accurate. The bottleneck is in arbitration of disputed values, and everything on the indexing end is seven days behind (since people can check batches out to index for seven days).

    My opinion is that Ancestry is dropping the ball on customer service big time. There is no reason why there can’t be substantive updates on what is happening, and there is no opportunity for customers to participate in the process through crowdsourcing, which is a huge advantage.

  20. Mick

    Ancestry acquired the England & Wales 1911 census a year ago (35 million records)and they have not finished indexing that yet. I hope there is a bigger team onboard for this massive US 1940.

  21. dannieb

    I agree this blog is much easier to read. I was merely commenting that the “revival” of this blog, after it disappeared for a few weeks, is merely the same information as the bright green blob.

  22. Anya401

    I am working as an indexer on the census project. It is MASSIVE. We have indexed some 36 million records already, but this undertaking is huge. I believe Delaware is searchable. Please understand that once a particular census is indexed it then goes to arbitration to check for mistakes. If there are mistakes, those have to be corrected. The last numbers I saw said that the arbitration process is much farther behind the indexing process. It just takes a LOT of time to get these done. The population of the US in 1940 was over 132 million. It’s going to be a while. You can look here on ancestry at the 1940 census. Take a look at any state and you can see how massive this undertaking really is. It took years to get the 1930 out there. This census is actually being indexed in record time. Just try to be patient. We are working our fingers to the bone here.

  23. scwbcm

    I agree about the sticky note blog. I am curious why there appear to be some different items for the three blogs, facebook, sticky notes and here. Do I need to check all three locations?

  24. BobNY

    scwbcm # 25

    Theoretically they should have different content since they ostensibly have different missions. If you were to believe ther marketing fluff for this blog, “Here you will find informational, and sometimes fun, posts from the folks behind the scenes here at ” Whereas sticky-notes “is meant to compliment our already established blog and be more of a place where you can share and discover stories and more.”

    However, lately what you have been finding here are these innocuous little share and discover pieces placed here by their social media maven who then never responds to the comments. And this is from someone who once posted “As you’ve learned from countless articles you’ve read, transparency and full disclosure are key to creating a stronger, more efficient social business.”

    • Nick Cifuentes

      Just to make sure everyone knows, we have both Sticky Notes and this blog, each has it’s own mission to deliver you content that is both interesting, engaging and informational as possible. On occasion, we’ll cross promote key articles across both blogs. This is only on occasion and we’ve only done this a few times. We appreciate your feedback and always let us know if we can help.

  25. MaryKay

    I had become discouraged about the long wait for indexing also. This afternoon, however, I clicked on the U.S. City Directories (Beta) under the new records. I found new 1940 addresses for my relatives and have already located many of them in the 1940 census.
    I am a happy camper!

  26. Lincoln Lowery

    Anya401 – What indexing project are you referring to? Ancestry’s? Or another site? I was under the understanding that Ancestry does not have volunteers doing this. Are you saying that Ancestry has already done 36 million records, but they need to be arbitrated?

  27. dannieb

    Now that’s disappointing! A company response to defend the duplicated blogs, but no reply to the MANY questions regarding indexing status.
    Sad, sad, sad.

  28. darlene8705

    Relax guys, there may be duplication between companies, but do you ever find individual private companies sharing the efforts of their company with another company? Strictly speaking, that sort of sharing could be bad for business. Heaven forbid that these companys do something that might get Uncle Sam on their backs, like sometimes happen in the stock market. Insider trading, etc?
    Let’s face it, sharing info can be rather touchy sometimes. Even something like a birthdate that a person is born with. I’m going to wait. I’ve waited this long, I can wait a bit longer.


  29. Marv Kennebeck

    As a US Army dependent, age 8, I was living on an Army post on Corregidor in 1940. Just curious to know if there was any attempt to count military families outside the United States?

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