Thursday, October 29, 2009

BIG Announcement - US Census Records

From a press release received from, embargoed until 5 a.m. EDT on 29 October:


ENTIRE U.S. CENSUS GOES INTERACTIVE WITH FOOTNOTE.COM to feature original documents from every publicly available
U.S. Federal Census from 1790 to 1930-

Lindon, UT – October 29, 2009 – Today
( announced it will digitize and create a searchable database for all publicly available U.S. Federal Censuses ranging from the first U.S. Census taken in 1790 to the most current public census from 1930.

Through its partnership with The National Archives, will add more than 9.5 million images featuring over a half a billion names to its extensive online record collection.

“The census is the most heavily used body of records from the National Archives,” explains Cynthia Fox, Deputy Director at the National Archives. “In addition to names and ages, they are used to obtain dates for naturalizations and the year of immigration. This information can then be used to locate additional records.”

With over 60 million historical records already online, will use the U.S. Census records to tie content together, creating a pathway to discover additional records that previously have been difficult to find.

“We see the census as a highway leading back to the 18th century,” explains Russ Wilding, CEO of “This Census Highway provides off-ramps leading to additional records on the site such as naturalization records, historical newspapers, military records and more. Going forward, will continue to add valuable and unique collections that will enhance the census collection.”

To date, has already completed census collections from two key decades: 1930 and 1860. As more census decades are added to the site, visitors to can view the status for each decade and sign up for an email notification when more records are added to the site for a particular year.

View the
Census Progress Page on

In addition to making these records more accessible, is advancing the way people use the census by creating an interactive experience. Footnote Members can enrich the census records by adding their own contributions. For any person found in the census, users can:

* Add comments and insights about that person
* Upload and attach scanned photos or documents related to that person
* Generate a Footnote Page for any individual that features stories, a photo gallery, timeline and map
* Identify relatives found in the census by clicking the I’m Related button

See the 1930 Interactive Census record for
Jimmy Stewart.

“The most popular feature of our Interactive Census is the I’m Related button,” states Roger Bell, Senior Vice President of Product Development at “This provides an easy way for people to show relations and actually use the census records to make connections with others that may be related to the same person.” works with the National Archives and other organizations to add at least a million new documents and photos a month to the site. Since launching the site in January 2007, has digitized and added over 60 million original source records to the site, including records pertaining to the Holocaust, American Wars, Historical Newspapers and more.

“We will continue to move aggressively to add records to the site, specifically those that are requested by our members and others that are not otherwise available on the Internet,” said Wilding.

Visit to see how the census on can truly be an interactive experience.



Note that the only the 1860 and 1930 census records are digitized and indexed on at this time. However, this means that five years after each census is made available, it will be freely available on the site due to their agreement with the National Archives. The census records will also be freely available at National Archives branches on after their release on Footnote.

Some questions (with answers in green provided by Justin Shroepfer via email this afternoon):

* Will the images used by be digitized by FamilySearch, Heritage Quest Online, or by, or will they be new images taken from the microfilms?

* Will the indexes used by be the ones done by FamilySearch Indexing or by, or will they be new every-name indexes taken from the microfilms?

Response: We are digitizing the microfilm and indexing the data ourselves the same way we have done the other censuses. However, the way we do the census records is different with the addition of what we call ‘sub documents’. We create sub documents for each individual on the census that features the indexed information, allows users to click that they are related and add their own contributions in the form of stories, photos or other documents. Essentially, this creates what we term the Interactive Census Collection.

* Will have indexes for all available fields, or will they restrict the number of fields for searching (like they have for the 1860 and 1930 databases)?

Response: Our indexes for these censuses will be similar to the other censuses we have completed to this point. We looked at how much information could we provide, but at the same time keep costs reasonable so we wouldn’t have to pass that burden on to our customers. We are confident that the information we index will make the censuses useful the the majority of the visitors to the site. Additionally, the tools on our site including annotations will enable the community to add additional information from the census documents to the search database.

* It would not surprise me to see an agreement between FamilySearch and to share the images and indexes in a joint effort. That's what happened with the 1860 and 1930 census records, as I recall.

Response: We do not have any agreement with FamilySearch that would share the images from the censuses. However, we do provide our indexes for use on other sites like FamilySearch.

Disclosure: I am not an employee, contractor or affiliate of I do have a paid subscription to the website. I appreciate receiving announcements from them. The opinions shared above are my own.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m. I received an email from Justin Shroepfer of answering my questions (added above) and clarifying the NARA - Footnote agreement. He said:

Response: I also wanted to clarify that at the end of a rolling five year time period, the National Archives records will be available for free on their site, not The National Archives will be able to put the images and the indexes we created for them at no charge on their own site for distribution. However, all these National Archives records are currently available for free on Footnote through the National Archives research centers.

Thank you, Justin for the corrections and clarifications.


Chris said...

I am disappointed in footnotes coverage of the 1930 census.

I looked about a month ago for some records in Nebraska and they only have 2/3rds of the counties available. There are 93 counties in the state and only 60-something are available. Needless to say, both of the counties I was looking for are not available.

bgwiehle said...

The link in the press release to an interactive page for Jimmy Stewart only leads to a pop-up ("You need an All-Access Membership to view this image.") if one does not already have a Footnote subscription. Not very inviting.

Eileen said...

I think the images are definitely not the ones from because the ancestry image for the 1860 census is much more readable (at least the pages I look at). I found the footnote search restrictive. I had to enter the exact mis-spelling since it does not find variants.

The History Man said...

As a footnote employee I understand your frustrations. We would ask you to be patient with what we are trying to do.

What we envision is that as we get these records up and running, the user will be able to have the richest experience possible.

Each of the census's will be interactive which allows the user to upload and contribute to each of the names on the census. By doing this we can see that down the road our census collections will be a one stop depository of records, documents, pictures, stories, and other pertinent information. It is our hope that when you look up a name on one or our census's a few years from now you will find a gold mine of information concerning the individual or family that you are researching.

Again, thanks for your patience and support in helping our vision become a reality. We will do our very best to get these documents up as quickly as we can.

Thanks Again!