28 April 2012

1940 U.S. Census Indexing: No Ire-ish need apply

The 1940 U.S. Census FamilySearch indexing project involves two independent anonymous volunteers indexing each page and then an anonymous arbitrator reviewing and weighing differences between the indices and making the final calls for each page.  One may review the results of the arbitrator's work for those pages one has indexed. But there really is no recourse when one has been corrected incorrectly. Needless to say this has caused quite a bit of consternation among those whose work is being challenged.

Last week I received a congratulatory message from the 1940 U.S. Census indexing project: I'd indexed 50 pages. Of course this was immediately after I'd sent them (whomever they may be) a message complaining about arbitration of my completed Bronx, NY pages. 

I can handle editing. Really! But what threw me over the edge was Eire. Early in my 1940 Census indexing career (the first week in April), I indexed a record that showed the place of birth for several people as "Eire."  I thought this was rather quaint: sort of poetic, with a tinge of political statement. It reminded me of Formosa being called China or the Navajo, Dine. Eire was not, however, acceptable in the index of possible places in Family Search indexing, so I replaced it with the acceptable "Ireland." A day later the arbitrator corrected my Ireland entry and replaced it with "Irish Free State."

OK. I get it. I don't know much about Irish genealogy, but if the Eire equation equals "Irish Free State," I can do that math. "Irish Free State" must be politically correct. So, during my next indexing foray, Eire did not raise my ire.  As soon as it showed up again I dutifully typed "Irish Free State." A day later my arbitrator dutifully changed it back to Eire.

I can't decide if there are two arbitrators assigned to work my "case" or one arbitrator with multiple personalities. Arbitrator A is my friend in indexing and understands. S/he probably has knowing, friendly eyes and a been-there, done-that down-to-earth personality. Sure, s/he may have to correct an errant typo occasionally, but s/he is greatly relieved when s/he gets to one of my impeccably indexed pages knowing what an ace I am and knowing full-well that we are both outrageously competent.  Arbitrator A and I have a shared disgust regarding evil Arbitrator B who cannot follow instructions and hasn't a clue. Arbitrator B wears a visor, has squinty eyes and congenitally pursed lips and will spend hours replacing appropriately indexed <blank> with "Bronx," not quite digesting the fact that "same place" in the context of a page from the Bronx means "New York City" and, therefore, does not require repetition. S/he will also think that Manhattan is the name of New York County. 

I now cringe while indexing records with "same place" in column 17 because I cannot be sure which arbitrating personality will appear to correct my indexing: the one I'd like to have coffee with or the one I'd like to spill coffee on.

One saving grace has been the Family Search Indexing Forums. They provide an area for blowing off the steam that arbitrators generate in all of us perfectly fine indexers. Reading through the rants is good group therapy. And it relieves my stress. 

After reading several posts I realized we must all just pull back, de-stress and remember why we're here: to index all 132,000,000 people in the 1940 U.S. Census. No project of this size could accomplish this much, this fast without some glitches. The index won't be perfect, but it will be pretty darn good. And, frankly, I don't know why I'd need "same house" or "same place" indexed anyway.  Once I find the person I'm seeking in the 1940 Census, I'll look at the record itself.

FamilySearch Wiki has a recent update for indexing.  This has solved my Eire ire situation:   if Eire appears, index as written. Of course, we know that arbitrator A has read this, smiled sweetly and nodded knowingly, while Arbitrator B won't read the Wiki and refuses to change his/her habits. Erin go bragh!


  1. I will have to bookmark the Family Search Indexing Forums page. Also, if you're on Facebook, there is an Unofficial Share Batch Group for Family Search Indexing where indexing volunteers can ask for assistance. I've found that helpful.

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth. I just joined the FB page.

  3. Ahhhh....the tyranny of Arbitor B. S/he needs to get out more. Maybe go bowling...

  4. I don't think s/he can spare the time(!). :-)


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