While the FamilySearch indexing map looks good,
Ancestry.com has published twice as much.
Since my last update, Ancestry has published indexes for these states: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Utah. During the same time period, FamilySearch did not publish any, but did finish indexing Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In terms of number of states, Ancestry has only published six more states than FamilySearch (38 to 32, respectively). The size of their lead is a result of publishing bigger states than FamilySearch. Of the ten biggest states, Ancestry has published seven. FamilySearch has finished indexing six of the top ten states but has only published one.
How quickly it can clear its backlog will decide the winner of this horse race.
Meanwhile, the question of quality looms large in users’ minds. Many users are reporting problems in the Ancestry index. I contacted Ancestry for comment and got answers to some of your questions.
“We are confident that our index, delivered in record time and optimized as it is to work with our proprietary system, provides the best and most powerful 1940 experience on the market,” said Todd Jensen. Jensen is senior director of document preservation services at Ancestry.com.
Several of you asked where Ancestry’s keying vendors are located. “We used four vendors to key the 1940 Census,” said Jensen. “Two were located in China and have been involved in Family History record transcription for many years. Another was located in Bangladesh and the fourth in the Philippines.”
While Ancestry doesn’t share details about their quality and audit methods, Jensen calls them “rigorous” and explained the process generally. If the quality tolerance is not met for a batch, it is sent back to the vendor for rework followed by another, separately sampled audit. “We can say that throughout this process we have taken every effort to ensure accuracy by holding our keying partners to high quality thresholds and implementing new and advanced quality assurance processes.”
Ancestry’s search system takes indexing errors into account. “Once batches are passed,” said Jensen, “there is extensive post production work which occurs. Index data is further augmented to maximize its chances of being ‘found’ in a search or through hints. Even names which have difficult handwriting have a chance of being found with our proprietary systems.”
Jensen acknowledged the comparisons being made between Ancestry’s and FamilySearch’s indexes. As reader AnnieB has pointed out, Randy Seaver has done one such comparison. I plan to do my own as soon as time permits. “Whilst we don’t discount such reviews,” said Jensen, “evaluation of indexes of this size is problematic with even large samples being statistically unrepresentative of overall quality.”
Jensen remembers statistics a little differently than I do. Large samples can be quite representative of overall quality. The problem with most reviews—including the one I will do—is that the samples are not random. That, not the size of the 1940 Census, makes it unwise to generalize results to the entire index.
Still, such reviews, as well as your individual experiences, have meaning and value in their own sphere. Leave a comment and tell us what you’ve found. Is anyone having positive experiences with Ancestry’s index? Or dare I ask, negative ones with FamilySearch?