Posted by on August 15, 2012 in Collections, Website

The 1940 U.S. Census Index is becoming even more accurate and easy to use, with your help.
While you can currently search by name through all 134 million people in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census on, we’re still working behind the scenes to make this latest census even better.

What are we doing?

Adding more details to your 1940 index. Before the end of 2012, you’ll be able to include even more information in your search as we update our 1940 Census index with additional fields including occupation, income, grade completed, value of home or monthly rent, weeks worked in 1939 and more.

Updating and improving your 1940 census experience – from records to index. Just like all historical records on, the 1940 Census will receive regular, general updates to continually improve your interaction with it. Updates may include everything from correcting the tilt of an image or replacing an imperfect image to improving the accuracy of a given name or surname.

When you find a problem
Even with continued improvements and our Q&A process, something all collections on are subjected to prior to becoming available for the public, errors still exist. And the 1940 U.S. Census is no exception. Each error becomes even more glaring when it’s associated with someone in the household you’re researching.

Changing a name or other indexed details
First thing to do when you discover an error in an indexed name or other detail on the 1940 census or any collection on, is fix it. By adding your own corrections or alternative names – even a nickname if you know your family member regularly went by one – you’ll help other people searching for the same individual find him or her even faster. And your later searches for that same individual will produce results with the name you’ve added, too.

There are two places you can add your own corrections and alternatives: from the index page or while viewing the actual census image.

From the index page
Select View/Add Alternate Information from the Page Tools box on the left. Then follow the instructions to update the information about the individual with your changes.

While viewing the census image
Hover over the specific entry, or box, you’d like to change in the index at the bottom of the screen and a pencil icon will appear. Select the box and follow the instructions to update the information.


You’ll find step-by-step instructions for making changes here.

Reporting a problem with the image itself
On occasion, the census image itself may be causing the problem. In these instances, contact our Member Services team at 1-800-ANCESTRY to report the problem.

Why it matters
Submitting an alternative or a correction to an index adds that information to the index itself. Within a few weeks, the information you’ve provided becomes publicly searchable as well making it easier for other people to find answers, too. Alternatively, reporting an image problem to our Member Services team alerts us to review the image so we can attempt to correct it.

What to do when you can’t find your family member in the indexed 1940 U.S. Census
On occasion, an index discrepancy may make it difficult to find your family member in the 1940 U.S. Census. In that instance, you may want to search for your family member by “browsing” images instead. Our Free downloadable guide will show you the steps to discovering your family by browsing.


  1. BobNY

    “Even with continued improvements and our Q&A process, . . .”

    What the heck is a Q&A process?
    Stop calling it a correction. We have been told innumerable times by ACOM personnel who actually know something that we cannot make “corrections.” The hideous transcribed name remains, all we have done is add an alternate.
    We are constantly told that there is a backlog of previously reported issues (you might want to check on WWI draft cards) and programming resources are constrained. Yet, you are going to expend resources to transcribe and index fields such as value of home or weeks worked. Somebody doesn’t have their priorities straight.
    “Updates may include everything from correcting the tilt of an image or replacing an imperfect image to improving the accuracy of a given name or surname.”

    The problem is that you never tell us exactly what you have updated to a particular data set. Currently you show an update for “Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1954.” Did you change the tilt of one image or re-index the entire data set? We don’t know because you never tell us.

  2. Russ Worthington

    I have encountered several images that are not in the correct order OR not listed in ED Page order. The ability to go to the next or previous page is very helpful. But I have found a couple of these images that were NOT in the correct order.

    HOW do these items get reported to

    Thank you,


  3. KG


    In order to report image problems, you can do one of the following actions:

    From the Standard or Advanced Image Viewer select Report Problem

    From the Interactive Image Viewer (the new Census viewer) select Actions > Report Problem

    From the Record Page select Report an Image Problem

  4. Tonfri

    I have made hundreds of corrections to files and the errors still show pages missing, wrong document showing, etc. Had in their infinite wisdom had not outsourced 1940 census maybe we would have a really good research experience.

  5. B.G. Wiehle

    Will there be a way to add or flag an unindexed entry? I ran across one a few weeks back while searching. The wife of the household was on the image but not indexed. I think I left a comment on the head of household but can’t remember his name.

  6. Concetta Phillipps

    I’ve been very disappointed with the quality of the indexing so far for Ancestry for the 1940. Very obvious errors have been made, and the Quality Assurance reviews have obviously not caught them. For example, on one page, the gentleman’s name was clearly “Lamar G” and Ancestry ran the whole name through so that the indexed entry was “Lamarg”, making it impossible to find the gentleman by name because of the way Ancestry’s search system works. This was not my own family, I reported it because it was the right thing to do.

    The 1940 errors on FamilySearch aren’t fixable, but the overall quality of the indexing is definitely better than on Ancestry. All the fancy technical advancements are great, but bottom line is, we need quality in the indexed entries in order to be able to use them.

  7. Laurie

    While it is helpful when people correct transcription errors by entering alternate names, one thing I find frustrating is when users submit alternate names that are incorrect. There’s no way to notify Ancestry to remove the invalid alternate.

  8. Toni

    Although disappointed at the many indexing errors I have been finding in the 1940 census, there is one bright spot.
    I just discovered that highlighting the name in the bottom index allows alternate information to be added for a name I was not researching, right there, without having to do another search. Louisiana has many French names that show up badly transcribed. I’m glad if I can help others find their family members by making a few extra submissions.

  9. George C. Dixon

    I will agree that I am very disappointed with the way the 1940 Census has been set up for a couple of reasons. First, I have any number of family members whose names I can clearly read on the census form but cannot merge into my family tree program because their names do not appear when I do a web search via the little green leaf or otherwise. Secondly, all too often in order for me to merge those family members I have found in the 1940 Census, it is necessary for me to close my program in order to merge them into my tree, Rarely am I able to merge successfully these names into my program. Please do not tell me that it is my program, for I am able to merge other material such as directory listings or war records, etc. I will also agree with one of the individuals above who commented upon the misspelling of names. I do not know who did the transcribing of the 1940 Census, but they certainly cannot read English correctly.

  10. Kim Rabbeni

    What are you supposed to do when you errors in census itself?

    I found an instance where at least one street was placed in two different enumeration districts. So the people on the street were counted twice in the census.

    Is there a protocol for reporting errors? This wasn’t a case of someone transcribing the information incorrectly. This was a case of two different census takers interviewing the same people. It’s the exact same address and the exact same information. I found this because one of the people on the street is in my tree.

  11. Ellen

    It appears that searching on “William” no longer pulls up names indexed as “Wm”; “John” no longer pulls up “Jno”; Samuel no longer pulls up Sam’l; etc. I’ve been making an addition to the names enumerated and indexed by abbreviations when I find them and doing it under “variation”. I would like you see you go back to the former method of searching. I like that you do not remove the earlier (incorrect) transcription as this allows me (if I’ve entered it in my database as originally transcribed [i.e., Sara for Sarah]to find it again easily under the incorrect rendering as well as the corrected one. I would also like to see an alternative in the name correction protocol that says Formal Name (or something similar) so that when John’s name has been entered as “Johnny” by the enumerator there is an accurate place to enter his true name.

  12. MsWinston

    Some individuals and families are fairly easy to find, while others are impossible to locate using the Index. I have found this to be particularly true for families who lived in the state of Arkansas, where I have many distant maternal cousins. Whole families are just missing, yet the people didn’t die until the 1970’s and beyond. I have researched under married names and maiden names, made deliberate spelling errors on surnames, all to no end. What in the heck is going on?

  13. fchambers

    So far, I have found hundreds of incredibly transcribed misspellings of both given and surnames. It’s hard to believe that the transcribers were paid to make such obvious an careless errors. I have corrected each error as I found it whether a family member or not. Otherwise, it would be impossible for anyone to find someone in the search results. It would be prudent to make the transcribers review the original census images, look more closely and correct their errors (without additional pay since their carelessness created this problem). As we all know, haste makes waste.

  14. Helen Dearing

    I, too, have found many, many errors in indexing names that were originally written correctly by the enumerator in 1940. This is especially frustrating since the majority of these names are commonly used in the USA, leading me to the belief that Ancestry outsourced the 1940 Census transcription to people who are not familiar with USA names. Disappointed in Ancestry!
    Helen Dearing

  15. Jess

    I have been shocked at how poor the indexing has been for the 1940 Census. In Rockingham, Virginia over 60% of the surnames that I am researching have been indexed incorrectly often with multiple spelling variations on the same page for the same surname. First names and relationship to head of household have also been bad.’s quality control has been atrocious.

    Sure I could submit an alternate name but when we are talking thousands of individuals with the incorrect last name AND a service which I pay for why should I waste my time doing YOUR job.

    If people are having issues I highly recommend using which has been more accurate for my surnames and localities or using the long method with street addresses.

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