Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Collections

It’s our number one question on the blog, to our member services agents, on Facebook, everywhere: Why can’t I search by name in my ancestor’s state in the 1940 census yet?

Seems like we should have an easy answer for it, and we do – because it takes time. But that answer resonates about as well as “because I said so” did when you were a kid. So we feel there’s a better (but longer) answer that explains more.

It goes like this: making family history records searchable online is one of those anomalous endeavors today that still requires people, not machines, to get things done. You need eyes on a page, fingers on a keyboard, brains to review and check everything and someone to push the final button and say “okay.”

During the first five days that we had the 1940 census, we placed all 3.8 million census pages, a.k.a. census images, online, allowing people to browse through enumeration districts to find family members. It’s the old-fashioned way of researching, much like using microfilm and it’s not ideal. But we wanted to ensure you had access to the records as quickly as possible, all while we were working on the ideal situation – a fully indexed, name-searchable 1940 U.S. Census.

So while those images were being loaded online, they were also being delivered to indexers, who immediately dove in and started transcribing the words and names and marks and codes on each page.

For numbers people, consider this: each one of those 3.8 million images or pages can hold up to 40 people. Each of those 40 people can have more than 30 boxes of information associated with him/her. Two lucky people on each page will also have extra information included about them totaling another 15 boxes of information. While not every box will be transcribed, or as we call it “keyed,” most will.

Information on the 1940 census is handwritten, somewhat freeform, in the individual census taker’s own unique script. Unfortunately, that cursive can’t effectively be processed by machine. So each page is handed to a person who manually types in details. Some fields are more complex than others: names vary, birthplaces aren’t limited to just 50 states and sometimes what’s written is in desperate need of deciphering.

After all of the information on a census page is keyed, it goes through a series of quality assurance (QA), reviews and spot checks. Errors on the page kick that page back through the keying process; in other words someone takes another pass through that page and the process starts all over again.

Combined, these processes create an index of the information on that page, a searchable database of specific information plucked out of the historical record. Once this index passes its QA tests, additional steps are taken to ensure that the database works correctly within the environment – this includes its connectivity to and coordination with our search engine and other historical records and integration into our family tree Hints system, so we can notify you when we find your family member in this new collection, too. Before pushing the index and images live on the site, names must be linked to appropriate census images and the whole system is tested once again. Once these final tests are passed, the index goes live, allowing you to search by name.

Now, all of this detail begs another question: why isn’t that thoroughly indexed, checked, scanned, reviewed and OK-d page immediately placed online solo?

This one is a little tougher to answer.

Our decision was and still is to launch each state index from the 1940 census at the time the state’s index is 100 percent complete. It was a tough decision to make but one we feel confident about (trust us, the decision was arrived at after plenty of spirited debate). In the end, we opted to launch state-by-state indexes rather than indexes for smaller areas because of two key factors:

  1. Partial indexes may be difficult to use and frustrating. Say, for example, the District of Columbia has a searchable index consisting of only 8 percent of DC’s population. You search it and don’t find your relative. Does that mean he or she wasn’t living there? If that 8 percent covers portions of various enumeration districts in no particular order, even covering just small parts of a street, the challenge is even greater for a researcher. Until the whole state is finished, there’s virtually no way of knowing if your relative’s home has been indexed yet.
  2. Full state indexes actually speed up the process of getting the entire 1940 U.S. Census online. Taking a grouped approach allows us to deliver a name-searchable 1940 index to you more quickly than if we launched single indexed pages at a time. Each state you’ll search through in the interim will be complete – not partial. When it’s all said and done, you’ll be able to search by name in every U.S. census sooner rather than later at, from 1940 all the way back to 1790. Follow your family back decade by decade. Guaranteed amazing.

The waiting, however, is the hardest part. At this point in the process, we’re transcribing, indexing, checking and processing every state that hasn’t been fully indexed yet as well as all U.S. territories included in the 1940 census. We’re also reviewing and fixing images that we received from the National Archives and finalizing our new interactive image viewer technology so that over the next few months, you’ll be able to see all of those answers from 1940 clearly, the way the census should be read.

So here’s our promise to you. We anticipate our next indexed location to be ready very soon. After that, we’ll deliver another state; then we’ll start launching state indexes a few at a time. Unfortunately, we can’t say which state will be ready first or next or even pin a date on when a specific state – including the one you really want to search – will be fully indexed.

We can tell you that each one will be worth the wait.


  1. Thank you for the update and the details.

    However, I have some positive and negative feedback for you:

    1. The new viewer is fantastic. Better than any others IMO
    2. I am disappointed that you have not provided a “real” update to your state chart in the 1940 census section since 4/6. DC has been in process for 13 days and you were able to do Delaware and Nevada in 4 days.
    3. It seems to me that something is wrong at or you are waiting to make a big splash soon. This blog post could have been made a week ago. Hearing nothing for 12 days makes one think there are some serious issues.

    Don’t get me wrong – I am a big proponent, but at least weekly communication to your massive customer community is highly suggested.

  2. Greetings,
    I just wanted to express my deep gratitude to all of the people working hard to bring the 1940 census & index to us. I can only imagine the long hours and challenging work involved. Please know that I appreciate your valuable work every day! You make it possible for people like me to reconnect with lost ancestors in a way that would be nearly impossible otherwise.

    The Best to You and Yours,

  3. dannieb

    I echo Kenneth Marks, with a small edit. Edit in all caps, since I can’t use italics or colors in this blog.
    “This blog post SHOULD have been made MORE THAN a week ago.”

    To tell us “we’re not slowing down any time soon,” but then come to a screeching halt, with NO communication of worth, only some social media blog post repeats …

    To say “we’re putting together an FAQ” which then never shows up…

    To enlist “ancestry aces” and then stop communicating with the folks who answered the survey …

    Lots of false starts is what this feels like and not a good sign with the largest opportunity of the decade. Plus, you had a decade or more to prepare!


    I’ve read thru this three times, and after weeding out the qualifiers, wiggle words, etc. have reached the following conclusions.

    1). Ancestry will not be providing any information on the Index Status of any state, other than those presently shown, until the state is 100% completed and the Index placed online. Does this accurately reflect what the article says- a simple Yes or No will suffice.

    2). Ancestry will not divulge why they can index approx. 585,000 people in 4 days but cannot complete indexing of Washington DC (Pop: 663,091) within 17 days. Again, a simple Yes or No will do.

    In the end Ancestry may well win the Indexing race but in the meantime you are losing the PR war-badly.

    Andy Hatchett

  5. Dawn Baggett

    I started my 1940 census countdown when there were 80 days until its release. I’ve searched the 1940 Census and while it takes longer than having an index, I’ve found loads of interesting information. I probably wouldn’t have seen any of this info if the census was fully indexed.
    While I am anxious to see the index for Tennessee, I think Ancestry is doing a great job overall. Thanks for all the clues that lead me to find my husband’s great grandparents….and I’ll be patient waiting for the index.

  6. Sherry Ray

    While I am sure having the Index will be a great thing when it is completed, I checked everyday for any communication from Ancestry as to how the indexing was going. I, along with a great many customers waited a long time to hear from you. You know the old saying “bad news is better that no news at all” could certainly apply here. Keep us in the loop. I appreciate the great lengths you are going to make sure that the index with be like no others but I hope I’m still around to use it.

  7. Ray Bullard

    I however would like to see the 1940 Federal Census indexed soon to, but after looking for my dads family census in Chicago and knowing that my grandparents weren’t living in the same district as the 1930 census was a undertaken. I do know where in Chicago they lived that remember but that was when my dad was in high school and won’t be able to find that until the 1950 census in 10 years. I was however to find my moms family as it was a smaller town to look through in South Carolina. After looking through each census I can feel for the people doing this undertaken for indexing the census and it is hard for someone to deciper this stuff person, by person so I’m just wait until it’s done which will take time. Thanks for what you do for family history..

  8. Long time member

    You may be able to find you people if you do a little work (more or less) on the city directories to find street addresses. That will help you narrow down the Enumeration District numbers. You will still have to do a page by page search. It will be easier if you can get the EDs. City Directories are usually kept by various towns or cities and by checking with public libraries (reference librarians) you may speed up your search. Not all will be found of course but this is how I found some of my people when I didn’t know their exact address in 1940.

  9. Jeff


    This is something that should have been done April 2nd! Did Ancestry’s PR team used to work on the Edsel? If FamilySearch can publicly announce their progress, why can’t Ancestry? All we want to know is how is the indexing progressing!

    Thank you,


  10. Tony Knight

    The cynic in me wonders whether there would be so little progress if, as was the case with the UK 1911 census and, they had a monopoly. As it is there is no real financial imperative to prepare an index at all, the first port of call is going to be FS, who have a target of completion within 2012, and free for ever, whilst Ancestry seem to have no plan at all, and if I remember correctly plan to charge from 2013.

  11. Jack Totah

    Agreed with many of the comments listed here – this could have been explained weeks ago. ON Family Search, they give you a state by state status of the indexing (Oregon is at 99%, Texas is at 9% for example. Still you article title is misleading and does not say anything on how you were able to have Nevada and Delaware index so fast, yet other states with smaller populations (Wyoming, RI) have nothing on it. THere has not been an update to the indexing page since 4/6. While I applaude the fast work getting the images on line, unless the index follows quickly, what is the REAL value of all of the work you did to get the images up quickly.

  12. Karen Palmer

    I can only echo what the others have said. Everyone is fine with only posting a completed state index. However, your lack of concrete communication on the actual process has been extremely frustrating especially to those of us attempting to respond to questions via your social media pages.

    The bigger concern though is that,as Andy Hatchett said, there is something seriously wrong with your current process and you are choosing not to address it. At your current pace of indexing, based on your public information, we are looking at over 4 years for a completed index not the end of the year as keeps telling us. The 4 year number is based on 24/7 indexing so could be much much longer.

    The longer you go without a real update the angrier your customers will become, even those of us that realize that this is not an easy undertaking.

  13. steve

    I used the directorys for the 1940s and found all the familys I was researching except 2 familys that is because I dont know what state they were living in at the time.I used the 1930 census on the 2 familys I was researching only 2 find they did not live there in 1940 any sugestions? Thank you.

  14. BobNY


    As the reigning champion of qualifiers and wiggle words, I bow to your expertise in parsing this blog post.

    I have serious doubts as to whether ACOM can answer Q. 2 at all, let alone with a simple yes or no.

    To my mind, the key phrase in this apologia is “Once this index passes its QA tests, additional steps are taken to ensure that the database works correctly within the environment . . .”

    Right now, even the 2 indexed states do not play nicely in the environment. There are hundreds (that I have tested), perhaps, thousands of purported “records” whose Home in 1940 do not match what is written on the population schedule. It is impossible to ascertain from outside ACOM whether these are systemic or not and whether they are random or there is some other aspect of the indexing that is creating the problem.

    Here are a few examples. Search for these people in both old and new search and see where they supposedly live from the “record” vs. the population schedule image.

    Gust A. Abrahamson
    George Arb
    Phyllis M. Baumann
    Bertha Bruno
    John Benson

    My hunch is that indexing continues, but posting has stopped until they can figure out why the indexed entries are not creating an accurate “record.”

  15. Marv Goldberg

    I have to agree with all the comments. ACOM usually does a wonderful job, but not this time. All the relatives that I’ll be looking for in 1940 lived in New York City. Just as a guess, there were about 7.5 million people in NYC in 1940 and another 6 million in New York State. This won’t be finished this year, no matter what they say. It really makes more sense to index New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and several other big cities that held the majority of immigrants to the U.S. and upload them first (before the rest of their states), so that people who started with 1880 or 1900 can continue searching.

  16. Stuart

    Thanks for the info. Just make the info flow a little more to all of us and I think you’ll find that everybody will be less fidgety. People appreciate being able to look inside the black box as much as possible.

  17. Scott

    Thanks for the update! Still a little curious why you can’t tell us which states will be next. Doesn’t even have to be a ‘release order’….just a “These are the states currently being worked on” update would be great. Can’t we get an “In Progress” next to the states that are being indexed like you did when you were scanning the records and posting them?

  18. Susan

    Why, oh why, do I still read these comments?! Why are they always so negative? People, get real. While we live in a environment of immediate gratification, sometimes patience is required. I would think you would have learned that while doing genealogy research. Have you done any indexing? I have, and let me tell you it is a slow go sometimes, trying to decipher handwriting. We should be grateful that we don’t have to do it the old fashioned way of going to a archives center and turning page by page! Thank you Ancestry.

  19. Emma

    Patience! I am amazed at the font of information available at Ancestry and having helped with indexing on another site, it is not only time consuming but tiring. You are trying to read and decipher handwriting but also working for accuracy. I say: Hold Your Horses People.

    Or maybe you should do some indexing for the site to know what it involves.

  20. Latisha

    Wow, you guys are seriously impatient! Step away from the computer, please! In this, “I want it, and I want it NOW” world, we have lost our sense of anticipation. I have found loads of information so far, and will enjoy the new releases as they become available. It is amazing how far this site has come since I started my research in 2009. It just takes time people!!! Thanks for the update. I just want to know one thing…..????? : do you need any help?

  21. Tony Knight


    The problems is that Ancestry made extravagant claims about delivering an index quickly. They have failed to do this and people are upset. Rememeber that even if it is spread over a year, there needs to be an average delivery of over two million indexed names each week.
    The response might alternatively be that it doesn’t matter one jot as Family Search short of a disaster for them will shortly be speedily delivering completed states in significant numbers.

  22. Donna

    I do agree with most of the comments above. My concern is the lack of recent updates as well as the hype leading up to the great release of the 1940 census coming up. Anticipation can get the best of us who love to do this. Then the big let down now knowing that its going to be some time before we will get any real information to access. In some instances the indexing is, as was stated above long and tedious and the information not there. So tell me ancestry, Is this a good way of charging us for another 4 years to get what we are looking for?

  23. Vonlay

    Thanks for the update and the hard work in getting the 1940 Census online. But I have an observation. While searching for my family members in the 1940 Census I noticed that Ancestry does not have all of the images online from the National Archive or other genealogy websites. IN some instances Ancestry has only 8 images of a particular state where there are actually 40 or more images available. I’ve noticed this oversight in states like Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi. I was wondering why there is a difference if Ancestry is claiming all images are online.

  24. Scott

    Not sure if the responses following mine were meant for me or not, but I’m not impatient regarding the indexes. I mean, sure, the sooner the better, but I COMPLETELY understand how long it takes, because I HAVE transcribed records before. I’d just like a little more transparency in terms of which indexes are being worked on.

    If I’m waiting for New Jersey, it would be nice to at least know “OK, but we’ve got TN, KY, NY, PA, and KS being indexed first”, so I’m not dejected when there is a long wait for indexes, and then some states come out and I discover that NJ isn’t in that group. This kind of update would at least help give people a reasonable expectation while waiting.

  25. Tim Schmuldt

    I think the fact that was able to get all 3.8 million census images online in a just a few days is amazing! I remember when the 1930 census became available. The first day, only one state became availabe. I think it took about a month or two to get everything uploaded and almost a year to index it all. Patience. How long would it take you to decipher and type 152 million entries with 15 boxes of information for each record?

  26. Ramon

    Hi everyone! In order to help you weather the insanely unfair 1940 Census delay that is inflicting on you, I have a few helpful hints!

    1. Go use FamilySearch. No, seriously. You should *already* be using it anyway to supplement your research. Do your 1940 Census research over there. If you’re not, don’t be mad when people point at you and laugh.
    2. Do research in other areas. Do you know everything about your ancestors *except* for where they were and what they were doing in 1940? Yes? You’re a liar.
    3. Volunteer time to an indexing project (it doesn’t even have to be the 1940 Census project!). You know all of those people you’re lambasting for being so slow? Try being one of them. For once you might be part of the solution instead of a whiner!
    4. Take some time off. Some of you sound pretty cranky and could probably use a vacation.

    Good luck! Let’s all cross our fingers that nobody has to die because of’s slow indexing!

  27. Gail

    I’m from back in the day when NOTHING was on computers and you spent all day in libraries and cemeteries etc. I’ll happily wait for Ancestry to complete my state so I can breeze over hundreds of names in a hour, instead of coming up with 3 or 4 in a day and at 20 to 40 cents a copy to boot. Thank You Ancestry.

  28. First and foremost, thanks for all of the work
    you have done and are continuing to do. I am from
    the older generation, which does expect to see the
    results so quickly.
    Our younger ones have had instant coverage for a
    long time. As far as for the DC area, most of you
    probably do not know that many of the records were
    damaged. This has made it harder. I have decided to
    continue to check from time to time, but if I find
    something, that’s great. Also,some states are not
    so free to give out all of the info. Best States to
    date, that I have found, are Californa, Texas,++, Washington (State), Massachuettes, Maine. I will bide my time. Every day, I find something about my
    ancester, that was not available before,


  29. Debbie

    I think you have done a phenomenal amount of work in a short time, while still doing all the normal work of maintaining and running the site.

    Sure can’t wait for Pennsylvania to be available! Can’t get very far if I don’t know where someone lived and even when I do it consumes more time than I have.

    I’m glad youre working on it and I know you’re doing it well!

  30. Jeff Crowell

    I do appreciate and understand the volume of work involved. However, my problem is with the priorities Ancestry gave in downloading images, and thus, indexing. While it is easier to download small States and Territories, the demand is greatest for Major Metropolitan Areas. Granted, if the NARA site hadn’t crashed, there wouldn’t have been an issue. However, I believe that Ancestry should have concentrated on getting the Metro Areas downloaded and indexed first, since that’s the area of greatest demand. Guam, Canal Zone, etc. could have waited.

  31. Dolores De La Rosa

    Thank you for all the hard work that is going on in the background. In the lead up to the release of the 1940 Census, I gathered all my relatives names and last known address. I was able to find more phone directory pages with more addresses. When the 1940 Census was released some were easy some were not but I was able to find my parents, grandparents and various relatives. Some members of my family still eluded me but I am still working and also waiting for the indexes, but that has not stopped me from working on my own, its fun kind of fun coming up with tricky different ways of finding my folks. Yes having the indexes done for me would make life easier but I’m not waiting nor complaining! has helped me find my past and even has put me back in-contact with lost family!

  32. Jeff Wolfe

    I am disappointed with and feel you could have handled this 1940 census announcement better. There was a lot of hype with the pre-announcements, and I, like others thought we were going to have little leaves on our ancestors profile, but to our dismay it hasn’t happened, at least in my case.

  33. Theresa

    Back to the question of transparency – is DC the only “state” being worked on? If so, I have to agree with posters above who pointed out that Nevada and Delaware were done in four days, and you’ve had twice that number of business days since then to get one more state done. If you’re working on multiple states at once, as the article above seems to imply, then why isn’t that reflected in the chart?

    Also, I’m perfectly willing to wait for the full index, and just scan through the images, but it’s kind of annoying that I can’t add a page to my tree, like I can with pretty much every other image on your site – I can only add a web link.

  34. scwbcm

    Theresa, I am not sure what you mean by “I can only add a web link”. You can print a copy of the item or make a citation.

    Did you mean something else?

  35. Elaine

    This a tremendous undertaking for Ancestry and I commend them for taking it on. Using the City Directories (I am fortunate that my family lived in a covered area) along with the 1940 Census, I was able to find almost everyone I needed to find. Sure, it takes time, but it can be done.
    Patience is a virtue, everybody!!

  36. Bob Shaw

    How can DC not be done by this time? How come no other states show ” in progress”? There has to be a problem you are not telling us about.

  37. Ed Stoddard

    Why don’t you let retired folks like me help with the indexing? I am connected to the Ancestry World Archive project, but went there thinking I might be able to help with the 1940 US Census but was only offered more trivial projects to index. Couldn’t the 1940 US Census be a choice for indexing there? Wouldn’t this help get it indexed quicker?

  38. Grady

    How do you ( decide what order you do the states in? I think a tentative order would be help people and calm most everyone down.

  39. Tracey Willis

    Is it possible to enlist the general public to assist with the indexing process, as Family Search does? I index for Family Search and would be happy to lend my time to Ancestry’s indexing efforts.

  40. Scott

    Ha! I think we must be annoying the folks working on the indexing. People kept bringing up, “but why aren’t you at least telling us what states are being worked on” and “how can you still just be working on D.C.?”

    I can see the annoyed discussion taking place at “For the love of…..just update the chart to say EVERY state is in process!” HA!

    Although its great to see an update on that front, I’m not sure it’s any better than what was there before. We went from ‘nothing else in process’ to ‘EVERYTHING else in process’….All 48 remaining states are being worked on at the same time? Great if so, but that gives the impression of “Just tell them its ALL being worked on so they’ll leave us alone.” Seems hard to believe they’re ALL in process right now, but I’d be real happy to be wrong there.

  41. Karen

    I understand it takes time to do all the states. I have no complain about that. I guess what frustrates me the most is the count down that ancestry had, the “so many more days until the 1940 census” remark at the top of the page. Foolish me, I actually thought that it would be accessible as the other census years are. Did I miss the announcement that it wouldn’t be? I am still waiting eagerly for the 72 year old census to be available.

  42. Libby Brinton

    From the aforementioned comments, I have to assume Ancestry is indexing on its own and not working with, Family Search, etc. What a waste of resources; we should ALL be working together.

    Does Ancestry put up a map to indicate each state’s progress as Family Search does? It would be helpful so we know how long before we’ll be able to see “our” state index.

    Since no Phila City Directory was published after 1936, I’m anxiously waiting for the PA index to find my parents. They weren’t living where I was born in March 1941 & weren’t living with their parents in Phila. I’ve already searched my township’s 5 EDs.

  43. Lincoln Lowery

    I too am impressed with how quickly the images were put on this site (and I love many of the records here). One small thing- the indexing status page was updated, but note the date… I didn’t think the index would be done for several months at least, just wondered what happened after 2 states were done very quickly, and nothing else, and no more updates. It is nice the page was updated, but…

  44. Karen Palmer

    @ Libby Brinton
    actually having multiple independently done indexes is better than a single source. It allows for a check and balance. The chances of errors being repeated across multiple indexes is far less than the potential of an error on a single index.

  45. Bob Shaw

    All we are looking for is the truth. Do you really think to just say all states are “in process” would solve the problem? How could two states be done by 4-5-2012, and DC was in process. Two weeks later DC is still not done.
    Some one at Ancestry told me the goal is to have all states done by December 2012. Give us the truth and we can deal with it.

  46. Dave

    I found both of my parents and all four grandparents the old fashioned way. I also found some of their relatives while going through the census page by page. I realize this is frustrating for people who don’t know where their ancestors were in 1940 (and I have plenty of kin that I hope to find because no one seems to know what happened to them past the 1930 census). Those people are going to have to be patient. But as others have said, you can learn a lot by reading about the other people living near your relatives. You might also find some other people you didn’t even know you were looking for.

    Some of us remember doing research before there was such a thing as online and many sources had no index at all. It’s tie consuming but in some ways better than simply relying on indexes and key word searches.

  47. Nancy

    To comment #47—there is a Philadelphia Directory for 1950, in the U.S. City Directories database. I found someone in there.

  48. E. H. Lepiarczyk

    I would like to volunteer to help index the 1940 United States Census. Can someone contact me so I can help?

  49. Jeff

    Why can’t you tell how you are progressing on each state? FamilySearch can do it. Why can’t Ancestry? As of early Sunday morning, FS has *THREE* states 100% complete. Nine more states at 90% complete or more. Two states at 80% plus complete.

    We are not asking for miracles to be done with the indexing. All we are asking to be better kept informed on how the indexing is progressing. So far, Ancestry’s PR staff has failed miserably.

  50. Shamrock

    If you have looked at some of these census pages like I have, you can see they are difficult to read. Some more than others. I have been volunteering my time to index pages and each one can take 30 minutes+. Unfortunately, I hear alot of Veruca Salts out there; ” I want a golden goose, NOW!!!!”

  51. Ken Wilson

    I agree with a lot of the comments concerning the “timelines” offered by Ancestry. It has been my experience they will tell you what you want to hear in order to appease you at that point in time. The poor customer service reps are hanging in the wind just like you are. They can only tell you what they are told to say. I reported a problem with the Obituary page in last October. I followed up in December and again in February. It hasn’t been fixed, no one has an idea when it will be fixed, and I can’t use the page. All of my software and hardware is up to date. It would probably take a programer 5-10 minutes to fix, but we have too many “whistles & bells” to add for the newbies and there’s a worthless TV show that comes first. I have been with Ancestry over 10 years and the service gets worse every year. The problem is there’s to other place to go. I doubt this post will remain here because it’s not on the topic of the board, but there’s no other place to post it that it’s not automatically trashed.

  52. Marv Goldberg

    All right. No more whining for me. I’ve started going through Brooklyn enumeration districts manually. There are only about 3500 of them, but my search is limited to Williamsburg, which is probably only a couple of hundred. I bet I’m finished before the indexed census is posted for New York. Does anyone know of a READABLE enumeration district map of WIlliamsburg in 1940? The only one I’ve seen is completely unreadable.

  53. Cathleen

    I’m glad to see that Ancestry is taking their time in getting the index to the states online. However, their *new* image viewer, unfortunately, isn’t compatible with my Mac. So, waiting isn’t a problem for me. I have to make time to go to the library to look at the 1940 census, even though I have a subscription to Ancestry at home. We weren’t going to update our Mac because what we have works just fine, but now it looks like we’ll be spending money in order for me to view this census at home. Money, unfortunately, which we can’t really afford to spend at the moment.
    I sure hope Ancestry doesn’t do the rest (1790-1930) censuses in this new image viewer!

  54. Linda Carter

    Being one who had to work the census records the old way (started in 1970) I well know the problem with deciphering the handwriting and copying each box. I understand exactly what is going on here and I applaud the efforts of each individual abstracting. I will wait patiently(?).

  55. Max Ward

    One more comment supporting many of the others here.

    If the goal is to publish each state index when 100% complete (good goal), and,
    the first two small states were done in 4 days, then,

    What changed after Delaware and Nevada?

    I suspect (probably wrong) that you guys worked 7×24 to get all images done and, when they were done, coincidentally, the staff had also been able to index the first two small states, and you sent all the staff on a well deserved vacation.

    If that’s true, just tell us. Genealogists are very practical people, we’ll understand.

  56. BEE

    I was pleased to find a number of census in various states, especially when I knew where someone was living. First going to the National Archives site and converting the ED# from the 1930 census, then going back to ancestry to go right to that district.
    Unfortunately, when I went to the street that an elderly relative lived with his family for over 10 years, I found that for some reason, that house number omitted.
    The more difficult search is not knowing where a family was living in 1940, but it isn’t the first time that I’ve searched through many wards, districts, even counties, although it was far easier in earlier years.
    But how great to be able to do this from the comfort of my home instead of a 2hr drive to and from a National Archives center, then sitting at an uncomfortable hand-crank machine if the newer ones were all spoken for, so as hard as it is to wait, it will certainly be worth it.

  57. Antoinette Sorensen

    Truthfully, I didn’t need any explanation, having been one of the old time film reader researchers and doing state by state county by county town by town or village township whatever. I do appreciate though the speed that is being done on getting these into an index format. I have found my mother/stepdad & some of “us” children in the 1940 in Illinois, my paternal grandparents also in Illinois, but my mother’s family moved alot and of course as stated above in another message where they were in 1930 didn’t help where they were in 1940 although the same town, and small at that, there were too many ED’s to go through and where they did live, they are not shown, and I know where they lived as we moved from Illinois and stayed with these grandparents in Washington. So I will faithfully await the index for these particular persons. I transcribe for various counties in a state other than my home state of Washington, and I do know how time consuming it can be in trying to decipher a person’s handwriting. Thank you all for doing such a great job. If you want it quicker, then volunteer to do some typing.

  58. Wayne Dore

    I know exactly how much time it takes to digitize archives into searchable information. I do some of that with my grandmother’s information in her house. It’s fascinating what you do to get it to our computers. Keep up the good work!

  59. Susan Murphy Appel

    I join with all the positive comments on this gargantuan 1940 Census project. Thank you for all the hard work. I have already found invaluable locatons of relatives and even the correct name of someone I have been searching for but had the wrong last name! Thank you + three…

  60. Mary Beth Marchant

    To echo the comment by the first poster, Kenneth Marks-I absolutely love the new viewer which has been extended to 1930 as well. I am certainly hopeful that all the census decades will be handled that way in the near future. It is so much better than the last viewer that was added. I am waiting too for the index to be extended to all the states but do realize this is a long process. I hope to see myself as a nearly 2 year old in Texas.

  61. Jean Ward

    #59 Cathleen

    I think you can view all census records without the *new* advanced viewer, by going to census image page you wish to read and look up to your left where it says “OPTIONS”, click on it, then, the first Option is “Use Standard Viewer”.

    Close the *new* viewer box in center of census page first. Hope this helps.

    And thanks to all who are indexing, the various writing is very time consuming to figure out.

  62. Marv Goldberg

    Now that I’ve looked through over 70,000 Brooklyn records looking (unsuccessfully) for my relatives, I have this comment: the next time I hear someone lamenting that they don’t teach cursive script handwriting in schools anymore, there WILL be violence. If they’d just printed, this would all be a lot easier.

  63. Katie

    I agree with the commenters who are disappointed by the lack of information available. I fully understand how long it takes to index the census (I’ve been volunteering over at family search–which has a ton of states really close, but only DE searchable, as far as I can see). I also understand why indexers post by completed state instead of completed image. I even understand why there aren’t 100% real-time updates (I would rather get the records more quickly rather than hear where the indexes are to the tenth of a percent!). BUT despite ancestry’s promises of keeping everyone up to date on the census status before it opened April 1–and especially to the ancestry aces group–there has only been one helpful piece of information released: that Nevada and Delaware were ready April 5. At that point, ancestry made it look like they were focusing on DC (which, going by image count, looks maybe 1/3rd larger than those two combined)–until April 18, when suddenly they were working on everything, and April 23, when they updated the “last updated” timestamp but nothing else. Two weeks of radio silence (even if there’s great work being done behind the scenes) is really frustrating. I have far more patience with family search at this point, in part because they are transparent about their process (x state at y percent indexed) and in part because they are volunteers. Even though the 1940 census is currently free on ancestry, ancestry is a paid service to which people subscribe. I expect better things out of something I pay for!

  64. KK4FPK

    #61 Max – The indexing is being performed by a 3rd party; outside of However, the indexing on FamilySearch is going along very quickly and they have live ‘percent complete’ on their 1940 Census page.

  65. matt

    Why aren’t the head of the households indexed first and THEN the rest of the family indexed later. At LEAST we could search via last names.

  66. John

    #75 Yes, I saw that too — but now that it is available (and NV and DE are presumably still there) how do you get to the index to search it — those links seem to have been taken down with all the reorganizing of the home page. You get it done — but now the customer can’t figure out how to use it.

  67. dannieb

    To 76 John – search as normal, but select the 1940 census. You’ll get a message that not all states are available, but you can search the 2 states and the DC, as well as the 1945 Florida States.

  68. Dana Kessler

    I have had great success in using the 1940 DC census–very quick and so far, accurate. I index for Family Search and didn’t realize Ancestry was using paid indexers until a couple weeks into the process. I am just hopeful that the accuracy for both sites is much better than some past census records where the transcription left much to be desired. Hopefully the sites won’t be indexing the same states at the same time, that way there will be more available to search sooner!

  69. Alibrusus

    I wish people would stop complaining and be grateful for the wonderful people who do all this work for them. I remember sitting in libraries getting motion sickness while scrolling through reels and reels of microfilm. Then came the time when good people scanned all the images and put them on-line, but you still had to look page by page by page, and it took uncountable hours! So, I say, “Thanks to all you wonderful people at Ancestry and elsewhere, who are doing all this work for us.”

  70. Marilyn Allen has 29 states completed and ancestry has only 5. Why is it taking ancestry so much longer to get the indexing done?

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