Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaking News: Use Google To Search in 1940 Census

I just discovered something interesting: You can use Google to search in Ancestry.com's version of the 1940 Census database.
I was searching for information on my uncle, Wallace Dingman, using Google, and up popped a hit on his 1940 census record in Buffalo, New York. It actually was the No. 4 hit in the list generated by Google for Wallace Dingman when I entered no other information.
Then I tried the search again, this time entering "Buffalo" and "1940" along with his name. Guess what popped up first in the list: Yes, the same 1940 census record popped up but now it was first in the list.
I tried the same approach with other ancestors, including my mother and father, and the same process worked. It is much simpler than going to Ancestry.com and opening the 1940 search function.
I also learned that you can refine the search by adding additional terms. I looked for "Walter Dingman" and "1940 census" and the first hit was not my great uncle but another Walter Dingman. So I added "Ohio" to my search terms and now he appeared as the No. 1 hit immediately.
Apparently the programmers at Ancestry have figured out how to make their 1940 census database searchable by Google. I don't know how they did it, but the results are wonderful. It will speed up the process of working my way through my list of persons of interest in the 1940 census. 
So here is my working approach: Start with a first name and family name, particularly if the names or the combination are somewhat unique. My name is an example: Wallace Huskonen. This is a combination of a somewhat uncommon English given name and a Finnish Surname. So if you enter "Wallace Huskonen," that's all you need to search in Google to find me in the 1940 census. My 1940 census result pops up first in a list of results for me. 
Another example of a direct search is my father-in-law: "Clyde Vancourt." His 1940 census result comes right up first, in a list of results for Vancourt.
With "Walter Dingman," I had to add details to come up with my great uncle's 1940 census listing. With Google, it is easier and faster than using the search window built into Ancestry.com.
Now, there's a caveat: the person you are looking for has to be in a state that has been indexed by Ancestry.com. At this writing, the number of states indexed stands at 38 states and territories. With the rate states are being added, we should be able to search the entire 1940 census by the time summer is over.
Is the indexing perfect? Sorry, but from my experience I can't say that it is. I was attempting to look up my boyhood neighbor, Lawrence Betts. No luck in Ohio, so I tried Pennsylvania. No luck there either with the Google approach. 
Being persistent, I went to Ancestry's search window and entered "Lawrence Betts" along with his birth year, "1937." He wasn't in the first 50 hits, but scrolling down through the second 50, there was Lawrence Betta, with his father, Harold, and mother, Mary. Bingo! They were living in Pennsylvania just across the state line from Andover, Ohio, where we both grew up.
So, technology marches along and we have even more tools with which to do our research.
Oh, by the way, if you don't have an Ancestry account, either paid or free, you will have to give your name and email address to be able to see the search results. Viewing the 1940 Census on Ancestry.com is free for now, but they do want to be able to let you know about new databases and subscription offers. In my view, that's a very small price to pay to be able to use the research power programmed into Ancestry.com.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that info! We learn something new everyday - thankfully. :) Great post.

    ReplyDelete

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