Saturday, April 30, 2022

Almost a Month


Come this Sunday, it will have been a month since the April 1 release of the 1950 census. The digitized enumeration has already been reviewed by computers able to read that illegible handwriting which seems to have been a job qualification for census workers throughout history. Over the course of this month, in a partnership between the volunteer indexers at and AI tech prowess, an army of real humans has been reviewing the judgment calls of these amazing machines.

How has it been going for them? The task has been divided into three categories. In the simplest, the task for volunteers is simply to check whether the computers read each name correctly. In an amazing number of cases, that has indeed become the correct verdict, no matter how messy the enumerator's handwriting might have been. Another task for volunteers has been to review the document headers. A third segment of the volunteer work is to group names according to households.

So, how is the work going? On the first segment, reviewing names already indexed by the computers, one state has actually been completed: Nevada. Looking at the progress map presented by FamilySearch, it is easy to check how other states are faring.

As of this writing, several states in the west—Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico—as well as Florida are closing in on finishing the last twenty five percent of the task. Montana, Louisiana, and California don't quite have one half of their names confirmed yet. With the exception of Wyoming, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island, which have yet to be added to the indexing project, the rest of the continental United States has not yet reached twenty five percent completion.

That, however, will come soon enough. If you are already a volunteer indexer participating in this once-a-decade project, scrolling down that same link where the progress map appears, you can see a tally of your own contributions. I was surprised to see how many names I had "indexed"—rather, simply confirmed with a quick click of a button—in the past month. The task goes so quickly, it hardly seems possible that I could have done so much. It is really no work at all, but benefits so many of us to have this census confirmed, line by line, for everyone to be able to search fully whenever we need to find details of our family back in 1950.

If you haven't yet gotten over to FamilySearch to volunteer to help, I hope you grab the chance to become part of this mammoth accomplishment. Simply sign in—or create a free account—and click on "Get Involved," then select "1950 U.S. Census" from the drop-down menu to get started. Let's see how quickly we can turn this job around!

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