Coordinating a 1940 Census Indexing Group

When the 1940 US Community Census Project was announced, I wondered if I’d even take the time to participate.  However, I quickly realized this would be a great opportunity to become more familiar with the FamilySearch Indexing software and give back at the same time.  Soon after signing up, I decided to go ahead and coordinate an indexing group on behalf of the TNGenWeb

I wondered if people would sign up, and sure enough they did! While I would have been happy with just a handful, we had more than 50 people sign up to index and arbitrate for the TNGenWeb. Wow. 

I’ve blogged about our group’s efforts on the TNGenWeb blog and am hopeful we can keep the volunteers engaged as we move on to additional indexing projects, both with FamilySearch and internal to the TNGenWeb. I am so happy to have been part of this effort :-). 

My First Ancestry 1940 Census Hint

Last week, soon after the release of the index for Delaware on the Ancestry.com website, I received my first green shaky leaf hint from the 1940 census!

The hint was for a person in my McNair family tree, Ms. Carrie Lucille McNair Griffin (1919-2004).  Carrie was a granddaughter of our family patriarch, Rufus Tannahill McNair, and  from Plymouth, NC – the homebase of the McNair family.  Before I received this hint, I did know Carrie lived in Delaware as this is where she was living when she passed. 

As I reviewed my notes, I saw that I had Carrie in the 1920 census, but I don’t have her in 1930.  Well, now, I have her in 1940 so I’ll have to go back and look for her. 

In 1940, she is living in Wilmington, Delaware, with her mom Annie Registers McNair and siblings Ellen, Gertie May, Vance, Leon, Anna Mae, & Charles.  The 1935 residence columns indicate they’d lived in the area in 1935.  Ellen worked as a nursemaid and Carrie as a bookkeeper in an accounting office. 

Annie McNair and family. 1940 Census. Wilmington, Delaware.

Now it’s off to try and fill in more of Carrie’s branch!

Statistics and the 1940 Census US Community Project Society Dashboard

This morning I was quite happy to see that the US Community Project has shared information from societies participating in the indexing on their Society Dashboard.

I am pleased that the group I’ve coordinated – the TNGenWeb Project, has placed 10th in the list of “large” societies! Our group currently has 36 members and they are all doing an awesome job.  However, my pleasure is seriously hampered by what appears to be methodological problems in how these numbers were calculated and posted.

1) the first list on the page reports the Top 10 Societies for the number of records indexed “per capita.”  Later in the page, there is another table showing the top societies for the highest number of records indexed on average. Per capita, is a measure of the average; it is not necessary to have both tables. This also holds true for the arbitration tables on the page.

2) FamilySearch is categorizing societies into “small” (less than 16 members) and “large” (16 or more members).  Thus, their tables showing highest numbers of records indexed on average is presented as two tables – one for the small societies, and one for the large societies.  However, the table shown for highest numbers of records indexed for small societies is the exact same table as the per capita list (the 1st one on the page).  This does not make sense since the “per capita” at the top (even if they really meant to have a per capita list) should include all societies, not just the small ones.  Essentially, that first list, the per capita list -is not needed; not only is it repetitive of a later table, but it omits the large societies.

3) Reporting the “average” number of records indexed assumes that when you plot the data in a histogram it has a normal distribution (which means it looks like a bell-shaped curve).  Without getting too technical, to tell someone what the “average” of the group is assumes that most people in the group are working at about the same level within a specific range, and that range is around the  middle of the data set values. I would be willing to bet that of all the thousands of indexers participating in this effort, we are not all working at the same productivity level.  There are probably many indexers who are transcribing very high numbers of names, and many, many more who are indexing far fewer.  This could produce a data set that is skewed (therefore NOT on a bell-shape curve).

Here is the curve for the 35 indexers from our group who have indexed records (one person has not) as of 4pm CST today:

What this graph shows is that there are many indexers who have transcribed less than about 1800 records and there are very few indexers who have transcribed more than 6,000 records.  The high point is off to the left, which means this data set is skewed.  Therefore, to better understand the “middle” of the data set (which is what an “average” is reporting) it is more accurate to report our median instead of our average.  Our group’s “average” is about 1,648 records indexed; our median is 1,016 indexed.  That is a big difference. I would love to know if the numbers of records done by all the indexers for the 1940 census are skewed or not. I would be willing to bet that it is just given the nature of the work we are doing.  If the data set is not following a bell-shaped curve, then FamilySearch should be reporting the medians.

4) FamilySearch is reporting these values as values for April 2012, but the month of April is not even over yet.  What was the cutoff date for this data set? They should have reported the dates covered by this report.

5) Do the “averages” reported also include the non-contributors in a group?  If the numbers reported do not include the non-contributors, then, I question the need to divide contests between small and large societies. Even with a median value reported, if the data set is limited only to those contributing,  then it could be entirely possible that a small society can be far more productive than a larger one – why make the division?

I would love to know more about how the data was analyzed and perhaps learn I am incorrect in some of my points, but from what I’ve seen today, I am can’t trust the data shown.  I understand that we are all in this to contribute to a worthwhile cause and I am thrilled to do so. However, if this is going to be contest, then FamilySearch should at the least report the data accurately.  Ideally, I would love to speak to whomever generated this posting so I can better understand the report was derived.

More to come as I learn it! :-)

My Census Day

This has been a fun day! With the release of the 1940 census there has been a lot of excitement among many to see the records.  Technical glitches abounded online as unexpected demand crashed the NARA website but there was still plenty to do.

What did I do?  I made a half-hearted attempt to locate my paternal grandfather in Manhattan by browsing the New York records on Ancestry.com but gave that up after an hour.  That was enough for me to realize I don’t even want to attempt to go through the census until it’s indexed; my family moved around too much. :-)

I am coordinating a group of indexers for FamilySearch for the TNGenWeb, so several of us spent the evening indexing.  Currently, we have 30 members and as of this writing we have indexed over 3500 records (about 1,000 of them are census records).  I myself only indexed two batches tonight so plan to do more tomorrow – I worked on Colorado.  My favorite name of the evening was Perfecto Chavis - he and his family lived in Pueblo County.

Then, after that, I did some indexing for another project – the NCGenWeb Yearbook Database.  I started this about two years ago and tonight crossed the 30,000 threshold for the number of names indexed.  Whoo hoo!

It’s been a good day.

 

Wearing my 1940 Census Ambassador Badge

I added a new icon to my sidebar this evening — the 1940 Census Ambassador Badge.  I joined last week as I am going to be contributing to the creation of the index.

So much has been made available online about the upcoming census that I will not rehash here.  In short, when the census images are released on April 2nd, there will not be an index.  The only way to find people will be to really have a good sense of where they were living.  An index would be far more useful so there is a multi-partner initiative that is encouraging us all to volunteer and help create the index.

More excitingly for me is that I created a group for the TNGenWeb Project so that we can work as individual indexers, but contribute “points” towards our group.  More information about that is on the TNGenWeb site, so if you would like to be on our team, just let me know. 

 

Veteran’s Weekend Trip to the Nashville National Cemetery

This Veteran’s day I did not have a chance to blog about any veterans in my family, so I decided to honor the holiday differently.  I visited the Nashville National Cemetery yesterday and took pictures using the BillionGraves app.

In two hours I was able to take more than 800 photos – amazing.  Now, my work is done – the images are uploaded to the site and others are already transcribing them.  This is why I love BillionGraves – it is just too easy to be a contributor.  I even had the kids helping again :-)

Kaleya clears leaves in preparation for Jihad's photo-taking

Kaleya takes a picture

I wish I could share the map of the cemetery too and where I took pictures, but I had to add it to the BillionGraves database and it has not yet been added to the website.  However, here is a snapshot of my dashboard as of the end of the day today.  My next goal will be to hit 2000 pictures before the year is out.

My BillionGraves Dashboard as of 11/13/11

 

Upcoming History/Genealogy Projects from the IMLS

At my job, one of my primary responsibilities involves a grant project we have that is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Just this week, they announced a new round of funded projects.  Some of them caught my genealogy eye as they have potential to be of benefit for family history researchers.

The full list of funded projects can be found here but the following are of interest:

  • Florida – Orange County Library System(Orlando) — the library is planning to work with community partners to prototype and evaluate the feasibility of a new type of library service geared towards creating openly accessible online databases of obituaries.  The online obits will be places where family and friends can submit detailed tributes and in doing so, help build a meaningful history of the residents of the community.  This is a planning project, so the database will not be built in this round of funding, but concepts surrounding it will be explored.
  • Chicago – American Library Association – another planning grant; in this project, the ALA will begin a collaboration with StoryCorps to make the service accessible to public libraries across the country.  The StoryCorps program is an important one for capturing oral histories, so the more that we can capture now, the better off we will be in the future.
  • Southeastern New York Library Resources Council – to increase awareness of oral histories, the organization will work with libraries, museums, community organizations and others to digitize oral histories from several repositories. They will create radio broadcasts, create linked and dynamic websites to showcase the collections and create mobile apps. Sweet.

 


FamilySearch Just Rocks

Tonight while going onto the FamilySearch website to look for a death certificate in TN, I saw two new collections in their list of records.  Just added today, these browsable only collections are:

These collections are amazing! Even though they cannot yet be searched, just being able to browse them is a huge gain for TN researchers.  The second collection contains a lot more.  Just look at what is offered for the county I coordinate for the TNGenWeb – Blount County.

For a couple of years now I’ve been eyeing the Blount County will records at the Tennessee State Library & Archives.  They have been transcribed by workers of the Works Project Administration and I’ve been planning to put them online.  Well, looks like I only need to create a good index now!  HOW WONDERFUL!

There are so many goodies to be found in this collection.  If you have any Tennessee research interests, you MUST check these out.   FamilySearch – keep this up! :-)

 

I’m Finally Using BillionGraves

When BillionGraves launched just prior to Memorial Day I was quite excited at its availability.  Though it was initially offered as an iOS app and I don’t have an iPhone, I enjoyed perusing the website and using what was available there.  I wrote a blog post outlining my initial impressions.  I am a power techie user and their model fits nicely within my paradigm for how I like to operate.  Well, this week, they made the Android app available and I could not wait to try it out!

Earlier this afternoon I took a trip to a nearby cemetery to see how it works.  I am in love.

Getting Ready

  • Android is notorious for all the different phone models, so the app does not work on all Android phones. I appreciated the developers taking the time to present a list of phones in their blog post that they know it works on, phones they know that it does not, and phones they were unsure about. My phone is on the “know it works on list” – yeah!
  • The download went without hitch and it was easy to login. I do wish my avatar would have downloaded when I logged into my account  – but that’s a vanity thing. :-)

Taking Pictures

I went to Calvary Cemetery – a Catholic cemetery here in Nashville.  I’ve only been here once and this was an opportunity to further explore it.  I was concerned about my GPS because my phone is awful for GPS, but this app is right on target as far as the section of the cemetery that I was in!  Here is my photo map of the pictures I took and it is an excellent tool for location purposes. The headstones marked are not exactly in place, but close enough for someone who may wish to follow-up and find them for themselves.  I like this view too because it makes it easy to remember where to pick up when I go back to the cemetery.  In fact, I’m going back in the morning and am going to try and finish this section.

The app is very easy to use. In fact, the camera on it works faster than when I use the regular camera feature on the phone. I did have a few delays between pictures at times but it could have just been my phone -it has been acting up for weeks now.  The GPS signal on my phone was strong and I was able to take around 150 pictures in about 30 minutes.  Not bad!  I had the kids with me, so purposefully did not stay long – just wanted to test it out.

Uploading Pictures

One touch upload.  Perfect! I don’t know how long it took for my pictures to upload because I did it and left my phone to charge back up and didn’t come back to my phone until about an hour later.  After the pictures are uploaded, the numbers show up on my online dashboard.  For some reason, one of the pictures was attached to the cemetery next door, so I’ll have to try and fix that.

From here, the transcription process is just like all other photos on the website after you click on the “My Photos” tab.  After having used the site for the past month, I can conclusively state that I prefer their transcription process to FindAGrave – I can move more quickly through it.

On an interesting note I see that some of my pictures have already even been transcribed by others. How cool!!!

I am very pleased with my app experience.  Thank you to BillionGraves for providing this app.  I may even go back and redo past pictures I’ve taken so I can further contribute to the site.

A Glimpse at BillionGraves.com

Today I learned of a new iPhone app and service called BillionGraves.com.  I don’t have an iPhone, but I am excited by the potential.  My first reaction was “oh no – we already have Find-A-Grave. Why would they compete with them?”  But, in looking at the BillionGraves site, the function is quite different and is really meant to cater to smartphone users – something that Find-A-Grave has not yet aggressively done.

Almost a year ago I blogged a wishlist for what I wanted in a potential Find-A-Grave smartphone app. And, there is already an independently developed app to access Find-A-Grave data.  From the looks of it, BillionGraves is meant to make it easy to take a picture when in a cemetery and upload it.  Find-A-Grave does not support this and the app is okay, but doesn’t quite meet my interests.

What I like about BillionGraves:

  • even w/o the app, I can go online and transcribe photos that others have uploaded. can you say crowdsourcing?  the transcription process is very easy
  • each tombstone picture can be edited by anyone. i like this though I can also see potential problems.
  • automatic GPS integration from phone coordinates.  my problem is my Samsung Fascinate phone is notorious for incorrect GPS.
  • the interface is simple – easy to click around

What could be better:

  • looks like you have to physically be in a cemetery to upload pics; can’t upload pics you already have or someone else may send you for posting
  • because the images can be edited by anyone a revision history and the ability to see who worked on a record would be nice
  • a dashboard is offered for you when you login, but no one else can see your dashboard
  • info is JUST the picture. can’t add supplemental info like you can at Find-A-Grave or link family relationships
  • search options should be enhanced to provide more refined combinations (like person + location)
  • city names are provided for cemetery info, but not the counties – major omission if you ask me. In a Search you can specify county, but if you end up on the cemetery page in another way you won’t immediately know the county
  • it’s not clear to me how they will avoid duplicate entries. this will be important to do.
  • the company does not have a social media presence? they do have a blog, but it’s not linked to the BillionGraves site — both of these issues need to be remedied soon
  • they could take a few more suggestions from my blog post aforementioned about features in incorporate :-)

This endeavor is of course new so I do expect they will continue to develop it.   However, even as is, it will be a useful complement to Find-A-Grave and I can see myself using both on a regular basis.   Very cool.

A.C. Ivory posted on his blog about it and mentioned he would post more for his Mobile Monday posts. I hope he shares his experience actually using the app in the field!