Thursday, October 29, 2009

Follow-up to Announcement

The Genealogy Insider (Diane Haddad) put on her expert reporter hat and asked Justin Schroepfer, a spokesman for, some important questions about the BIG Announcement - US Census Records that many bloggers posted today.

Diane's blog post is Census Collection Q&A With Footnote. The most interesting question was, I think:

1. Is Footnote creating new census images and indexes? How is this being done?
"We are digitizing the microfilm and indexing the data ourselves the same way we have done the [1860 and 1930] censuses. The way we do the census records is different with the addition of what we call ‘sub documents.’ "

Please read all of Diane's interview with Justin. has already started on the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census records, as you can see in this screen capture from the Census site:

This shows that the completion status for the different census years is, as of today:

* 1860 - 100% complete
* 1900 - 1% complete
* 1910 - 1% complete
* 1920 - 1% complete
* 1930 - 97% complete

Justin answered another question indicating that the entire 1790 to 1930 census collection would be completed by the end of 2010. If so, that is really good news! It certainly sounds ambitious!

I am excited by the prospect of another, separate, set of census indexes, but I wonder who they will be shared with. Footnote and FamilySearch already share the 1860 census indexes.

As with the 1930 US census, the user has the capability to see a Footnote Page created by, for the entries in the available census records. However, each census collection (including 1860 and 1930) creates a separate page for each person, and there will likely be many census pages for many persons in the census.

In my humble opinion, needs to find a way to combine the several records for a person so that there is only one Footnote Page for an individual. If they can accomplish that, then may well be the best place online to have a wiki environment collection of Person Pages, with user-submitted photographs, documents, stories, vital records, etc.


Geolover said...

Randy, your proposal that combine Census pages so that there be but one per individual sounds find at first glance . . . . but can quickly break down when people who are not familiar with particular families struggle with:

--shifting birth-year equivalents (so many did not know exactly when they were born) that make distinguishing between same-named persons tricky;

--unusual given names (some who don't believe in the name 'Ruhama' convert it to 'Ruth Ann'; similar problems with short-for-Aseneth);

--immigrants' and other surnames filtered by an enumerator's struggle to write what he thought he heard;

--difficult enumerators' handwriting in general (is that Samuel or Lemuel? Daniel or David?);

--shifting use of middle names and short-forms.

Just ask the people who struggled for many years trying to trace families of heads of household from the 1790 US Census for Maine.

bikerick said...

I had a long discussion with a Footnote rep about your suggestion to combine pages for the same person and he was amenable. But as Geolover indicated no matter how good Footnote may eventually be at this, it will be difficult. Already my father has two pages -- one from the 1930 census and one from his WWII service. His case is conplicated because his last name was changed. I believe that it is possible for users to indicate that both records are for the same person.