There seems to be one question that keeps coming up from folks who are anxious to start using the 1940 U.S. Census indexes. They want to know why, when a state’s census records are 100% indexed, is the index not available to use? This is a good question. Let me explain what’s happening.
After the indexers are done indexing a state’s census records, the indexing records still need to be arbitrated. Each census record is indexed by two different people and a comparison is made of the information. If a record is indexed exactly the same by both indexers, the record is ready for the final steps of processing. However, if the two indexers indexed a piece of information differently, then a person called an arbitrator looks at the record and decides which information is correct. This arbitration process ensures that the end product (the index) is as accurate as possible.
Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly enough arbitrators. We currently have a backlog of over 3 million images that need to be arbitrated. That’s 3 million census images and their respective indexes that can’t be published on FamilySearch.org because they haven’t made it through arbitration. It’s just a matter of having enough volunteers to serve as arbitrators. (Visit the FamilySearch Blog to read several excellent blog posts about arbitrating records.)
After the census records for a state have been indexed and arbitrated, they need to be processed into the finished indexes. That process takes about 10 to 14 days.
The best way to find out which states have an index is to follow these steps.
Go to the FamilySearch.org/1940census. The color scale on the left side of the screen shows how much of the state indexing is complete. States in black have their indexes finished and posted on FamilySearch.org.
- Place your cursor over the state in question to make a status box appear.
- If the state is in the process of being indexed, a pop-up tells you how much of the state is indexed. For example, “TEXAS. 14% Indexed. Explore Images. Learn More. Click on this message to begin searching through the unindexed images.”
- If a state is complete and is posted in FamilySearch, the pop-up says, for example, “Delaware. Search Records. Explore Images. Learn More. Click on this message to begin a search using the completed index.”