Monday, July 21, 2008

Ancestry and FamilySearch to work together on Census Records and LDS have announced an agreement to bring all of the US Federal census indexes to FamilySearch and to improve the census indexes and images on The press release on The Generations Network site is here (it's not on the FamilySearch site yet).

The really interesting paragraphs include:

" and FamilySearch, the two largest online family history resources, announced today they will exchange records and resources to make more historical records available online. The first project is a joint initiative to significantly enhance the online U.S. Federal Census Collection (1790 to 1930). The original census records are among the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

"FamilySearch is digitally converting master microfilm copies of the original U.S. Federal Censuses from 1790 through 1930 and, under this agreement, will give these improved images to All census images and indexes will be available on for subscribers. As projects are completed, images will be available for free in NARA reading rooms and FamilySearch’s 4,500 Family History Centers.

", which currently offers indexes and images to the entire publicly available U.S. Federal Census Collection, will give FamilySearch copies of its existing census indexes. Through its online indexing system and community of volunteer indexers, FamilySearch is already indexing select censuses. FamilySearch will merge the indexes with the new FamilySearch indexes to create enhanced census indexes, which will be added to both sites. Indexes to the enhanced censuses will be free on for a limited time as they are completed. Indexes will also be available for free on"

I have some observations and questions:

* This brings all of the US Federal census indexes and images, in "best of" form, to all LDS Family History Centers and to all National Archives locations. This is an improvement to the current state where is available only at 13 regional FHCs and at the National Archives locations.

* When completed, this improves the images and indexing on for subscribers. This is an improvement to the current state, where the images and indexes on Ancestry are, shall we say, "imperfect."

* The LDS FamilySearch Indexing effort on the censuses will be streamlined - we will get the indexes faster because they will use the Ancestry indexes as a first draft. And the indexes will be available on the LDS FamilySearch Record Search site. This is an improvement.

* Left unsaid in the press release is the question of what US Federal census records will be available FOR FREE online at The FamilySearch Record Search site presently has the 1850 (partial), 1860 (partial), 1880 (complete) and 1900 (complete) indexes and complete images (except for 1880). Will ALL of the improved census images be available on the FamilySearch site for home access? Will all of the upgraded indexes be available on the FamilySearch site for home access?

* If not, why in the genealogy world not? FamilySearch will have all of the improved images and all of the upgraded indexes. Perhaps this is THE WAY to keep people coming into the Family History Centers around the world.

* Diane Haddad's post on The Genealogy Insider says

"The census indexes on and FamilySearch will link to record images on If someone without an subscription clicks the image link, he’ll be prompted to join. Subscriptions cost $155.40 per year or $19.95 for a month."

* If that is true, it is not a good thing. It is a loss for non-Ancestry subscribers since all of the census records would have been on FamilySearch in future years.

* All of this is not going to happen overnight. We will have to wait for the upgraded images and indexes on Likewise, we will have to wait for the upgraded indexes on, but they will appear sooner than if FamilySearch had to generate all of them from scratch.

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