Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ancestry.com Takes Lead in 1940 Census Race

Ancestry.com 1940 Indexing Status Map for 16 July 2012For Ancestry.com, Friday the 13th was a lucky day. With the release on that day of indexes for 15 additional states, Ancestry took the lead in the 1940 U.S. Census horse race.

“We are working hard here at Ancestry.com to bring the 1940 US Census to the public,” said Ancestry spokesperson, Matthew Deighton, “and are now very well ahead of schedule from our initial completion predictions.”

Ancestry has published indexes for 26 states, accounting for 2.1 million pages, or 55% of the entire census.

Since my last update, and as of 18 July 2012, the FamilySearch coalition released the District of Columbia (Washington, DC), Minnesota, and Rhode Island. This brings their state count to 32 and their page count to 1.3 million. That is 35%, 20 points behind Ancestry.

MyHeritage is still working on their second state, New York. According to calculations based on record count, they have published just 7% of the census.

Ancestry’s move into the lead is unexpected considering FamilySearch’s commanding lead in indexing where it has finished 3.4 million pages. One FamilySearch manager used a vending machine analogy to explain how FamilySearch can be so far ahead in indexing but behind in publication: You can have enough coins to buy a coke, but if you divide them among multiple vending machines, you’ll end up thirsty.

FamilySearch indexers have indexed considerable amounts of states that aren’t yet 100%. That work is reflected in indexing totals but won’t be reflected in publication totals until the states are complete.

This raises the question as to whether or not Ancestry can retain its lead. Have they increased their indexing capacity? Or is this a temporary situation that the FamilySearch juggernaut will overwhelm?

Stay tuned…

25 comments:

  1. Quality vs Quantity
    The latest release from ACOM contained a primary state for my research. I had found many target families before indexing - rural areas and small towns where families had lived for generations. I was waiting for indexing to find a few key, elusive, individuals.

    The transcription/indexing is much worse in this batch than in earlier ACOM releases. Names that were clearly written are transcribed as something almost unrecognizable. White families are listed as Black - and that's a field to which one cannot append a correction. 60-somethings are 50; 30-somethings are 20. A person listed as previously living "same place" has an inferred residence in a different city and state, because of the transcription error.

    So, IMHO, this release was premature. I'm spending as much time entering corrections as I am searching. Less patient researchers simply won't find their target families.

    While this release may give ACOM bragging rights, it did not help the researcher as much as it should.

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  2. Agreed. I found numerous errors when researching family members from Ohio in Ancestry. Simple names, clearly printed on the census form, were indexed improperly. Sloppy is the best word to describe it.

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  3. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who noticed the poor indexing on the part of Ancestry. Also I was surprised that the Ancestry search engine did such a poor job. I searched on Ancestry for my grandfather, Samuel J Francis, a resident of California in 1940. Their search failed to find him. I tried the same search on FamilySearch and his record came right up. Turns out the enumerator spelled his last name with an e (Frances). When I changed the Ancestry search to Samuel J Frances, then it found him. A search engine that cannot find a Francis when it's spelled Frances is pretty lame.

    Errors in the Ancestry indexing on my grandfather's page are numerous. Examples: the street, clearly Tustin Avenue, is indexed Tsutin Avenue; line 41, the given name, clearly Harry, is indexed Hanry; line 43, given name Mary J was indexed simply Mary; lines 46-50, the surname Head is indexed Hens; line 51, my grandfather's age, clearly 54, is indexed 52; line 57, the given name, clearly Fern, is indexed Ferd; and so on. I quit looking for more errors, being extremely embarrassed on behalf of Ancestry. Have you or anyone else pointed this out to them? What do they say about the poor indexing and poor search capability?

    I checked the FamilySearch indexing of this page and none of these errors show up. I'm an indexer and an arbitrator with FamilySearch and I think it very unlikely any page from FamilySearch would get through to the public with the number of obvious errors I found on my grandfather's census page in Ancestry.

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    1. I have pointed it out to them. I received the lame reply that their error percentage is extremely low compared to the number of records they have online. When I replied that I was commenting only on the 1940 census indexing and that the error percentage for it was extremely high, I received no further comment from them. I told them point blank that they should be embarrassed to be putting out such a shoddy index to paying customers. I don't think they really care. I think they are relying on their regular users to get the corrections done for them over the years. Up until now I have not hesitated to offer an error correction, but it was only on occasion that I ran into one that needed to be made. However, my searching of the 1940 census has been similar to yours -- numerous, numerous errors in multiple field for every member of the household. I am not going to spend all my search time offering error corrections on every single records that I look at.

      When searching for Tennessee records I have had the additional frustration that the index only shows the person that I've searched for in the family members field. Since many of the family surnames are quite common, this makes it much harder to locate the exact family that I'm looking for.

      As someone on another board pointed out to me, Ancestry's membership has exploded, so I don't think they care right now. We'll see if their shoddy product costs them members in the long-run.

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  4. Same experience here! The first person I searched for had errors! If that is any indication of what is to come I will not be using Ancestry for searching once FS is 100%.

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    1. After many frustrating search attempts (I have yet to find one family member in the Kentucky records through using the search engine), I have come to the same conclusion. I'll search for my records on FS, then come back to Ancestry with the appropriate location of the record I'm searching for and find it that way on Ancestry. It's a shame that it has to be done that way, but I've been way too much time on fruitless searches on Ancestry. Even using wildcards and other creative search methods, I'm coming up with nothing. On some members I've done a page-by-page search of the county that I know they were living in and found them that way. Once I've found them and viewed the index for their records I realized why I wasn't finding them by using the search engine. I probably couldn't find myself (not that I'm on the 1940 census!) by using Ancestry's indexing.

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  5. We bought a Coke©, but there is no bottle-opener. Or, perhaps, more accurately, we got a bottle of Coke© syrup, no carbonated water, no ice and no cup.

    We are thirsty and frustrated.

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  6. Ancestry Insider,

    I don't know whether you read these comments, but, if you do, please consider writing an article on the poor indexing quality in the 1940 U.S. census found on Ancestry. They really need to have their feet held to the fire on this, and you're one person who can do it. It would be really nice to see a serious response from them about it.

    Will you step up and do it?

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  7. One of the other bloggers has done a comparison between the FS indexing and the ACOM indexing.

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    1. Do you have a link please?

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    2. Kim, I don't know how the Insider feels about links to other blogs, so I'm not comfortable putting a link here without his permission.

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    3. AnnieB,

      Thank you for taking my feelings into consideration. I think it would be awesome to share the link.

      --The Insider

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    4. Thanks, Insider, It's a multi-part blog series from Randy Seaver. Link to the first post:
      http://www.geneamusings.com/2012/07/1940-us-census-index-comparisons-post-1.html

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    5. Thank you, AnnieB and Insider.

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  8. the only two states i really need information are Texas and Arkansas and predictably no one has them yet. i've done all i can through manual searching. the people i'm looking for, i dont know where they were in 1940

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  9. I have just seen another atrocious transcription error, and, of course, it is in a field to which I cannot append a correction.

    The entire page is on Lawrenceville Road. The transcription is "Lawren Ceville Roads"!

    I'll contribute to the fund to buy these people some glasses!

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  10. I agree with the above posts about the sloppy indexing on Ancestry, but have been both surprised and disappointed in seeing the mistakes that have slipped through on Family Search well. I would have expected that the indexing system used by Family Search would not have allowed some of the errors that I have encountered.

    Unfortunately, FS does not (yet) have a means to correct those indexing errors, s someone else who may not have the same information to which I have access is more likely to have an unsuccessful search experience.

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    1. The problem on the FS indexing is that there is (so far) no way to correct arbitrator errors.

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  11. I've searched on both, and I've found the FS indexing to be better, overall, than the indexing by ACOM.

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  12. It is not just the 1940 census that seems to have suffered from a lack of attention in the indexing. I have been doing a lot of work that involves the city directories collection and have found numerous errors in type-written records such as this one: in the U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, if you search for the given "name" Oronogo (and I am using this as the fastest way to find this page full of errors, I was looking for something quite different when I first noticed it) you will be taken to a list of hits in a directory for Jasper County, Missouri. The image of the page shows quite clearly that the list below contains people from several towns which are listed in the heading, among them being Oronogo. Yet on the transcription for this page (and for others in different years) includes Oronogo as part of the given name (others also include as part of the given name such towns as Sarcoxie, Carl Jct, and Opolis, etc)

    In one transcription for a St Joseph Missouri directory, the name Leota Farr along with her listed occupation as a seamstress was transcribed as Farr, L occupation: Ota Seanis. Others have been transcribed with addresses that were totally incomprehensible.

    I could understand it if these were handwritten records but they are typed city directory pages.

    I can't compare the transcription of the city directories with FS because they don't have them and while I appreciate the fact that the directories are there (they've helped me narrow down a lot of timelines for divorces, etc) but it does seem to indicate that there may be some difficulty with the indexing process at ancestry.com right now.

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    1. The City Directories were OCR-d - no humans involved. While it is sad that the City Directories have errors and missing sections, it's apples and oranges, since they were not indexed.

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  13. Since FamilySearch came on line I've found many families in their census index that are not found at Ancestry.com irrespective of census year. I find it particularly disconcerting to search City Directories for "John Smith" and have to sift through a few dozen views only to find that "John Smith" might be "John" somebody on one part of the page and somebody "Smith" on another part. I recognize they were OCR'd but for the most part, City Directories have been a useless part of my subscription.

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  14. Ancestry's search engine is broke. End of story.

    1940 indexing is so bad there are not words allowed on a public blog post that can be used to describe it. End of story. (Oh, by the way, it is free till the end of 2012 at Ancestry, so, supposedly, we are NOT paying for this indexing. Cough Cough!)

    I found my MIA great grandparents on the 1910 census after 20 years of searching, with 3 different sets of indexing and finally they popped up on of all places, Family Search. Watch me dance. End of story.

    So far, the 1940 indexing at FamilySearch has been the BEST onlne indexing I have had the pleasure of using, yes, there have been some issues, but, compared to my daily hair pulling insanity inducing results at Ancestry, this is pure heaven! So far, FamilySearch for me has been close to 100%. Astonishing, remarkable, fabulous. End of story.

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  15. Does anyone know who is doing the indexing on the 1940 Census for Ancestry?

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  16. I have read - but only 2nd hand, not a definitive response from corporate - that the indexing was handled offshore.

    There is a press release from ancestry.com corporate regarding their partnership with the University of Minnesota Population Center. It's a long link, but if you visit
    http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2012/

    then click on the release dated 4/2/2012

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