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1940 U.S. census indexing project ahead of schedule

SALT LAKE CITY — Down the home stretch they come.

Only two months after the 1940 U.S. federal census was
released, an online community of about 125,000 volunteers
has already indexed more than 50 percent of the 3.8 million records.
In other words, of the 132 million people who lived in the
United States in 1940, more than 75 million have been

“Our online volunteers have surpassed our expectations,”
said Paul Nauta, spokesman for the 1940 U.S. Census
Community Project.

The national service project, the first and largest of its
kind, aims to establish a comprehensive searchable
database and make the 1940 U.S. census records available
for free on all project partner websites, including the National Archives
and Records Administration
,, and and by ProQuest through public

“We believe that all people deserve free access to
the 1940 U.S. census records so they can learn more about
their family history, ancestors and the past. With the
help of the Community Project partners, and especially
volunteer indexers across the nation, we’re halfway
to our goal,” said Megan Smolenyak, spokeswoman for
the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project. “We
didn’t expect to make this much progress only two
months after the 1940 census records were released, so
we’re excited and thankful to all of the
enthusiastic volunteers.”

Of the 50 U.S.
, 18 have already had their records from the
1940 census indexed by the online volunteers, including
the majority of states in the Rocky Mountain region.
Several other states are more than 80 percent done or in
the final stages of being completed.

According to Nauta, more than 150,000 volunteers
registered to assist in the community indexing project.
About 90,000 volunteers have contributed along the way
— an average of 25,000 per day — and
approximately 1,000 are still signing up each day, Nauta

“We’ve had a surprising turnout,” he said. “There are many
reasons why people are interested. Most know someone who
was living in the 1940s and they are excited to be able to
search for those relatives. Others have found so much joy
in their family history, volunteer indexing is a way to
give back or pay it forward, so those entering the hobby
in the future will have quick success.”

Nauta said new volunteers are still encouraged to register
to help index the 1940 census and with future indexing
projects. The massive project is on target to be completed
at the end of summer.

“We are three to four months ahead of schedule and look
forward to finishing this well before the end of the
year,” Nauta said. “When we are done with the 1940 census,
we hope to keep volunteers on board for other exciting
historical projects to keep the momentum going.”

“Volunteer indexers have the unique opportunity to
step into the past and read through handwritten records
captured by census enumerators as they walked from house
to house,” said Joshua Taylor, spokesman for the
1940 U.S. Census Community Project. “Through
indexing, volunteers are essentially reliving history and
helping provide others with the access they need to gain
greater insights into the life and times of their own
ancestors more than 72 years ago.”

To learn more about the 1940 U.S. Census Community
Project, track real-time progress of volunteer indexing
efforts or become a volunteer, visit

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