Tuesday, June 29, 2010

U.S. Census Records on FamilySearch.org

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One of my OASIS students commented this week that "it is so confusing to use the FamilySearch Record Search - some years they have images and some years they have only index entries."

My guess is that some of my readers have the same complaint. Let's see what the FamilySearch Record Search site, and by extension the FamilySearch Beta site, offers in the way of U.S. Census Records (population schedules):

1) 1850 U.S. Census - 100% complete:

* Complete set of images on FamilySearch Beta site
* Every name indexed - index fields: First Name, Last Name, Census Place (Ward, Town/City, County, State), Age, Birthplace, Gender
* Source information: GSU Microfilm Number, no NARA Film Number/Roll, no Page Number

2) 1860 U.S. Census - 100% complete:

* No images on FamilySearch site. Link from index to http://www.footnote.com/ (user must have Footnote subscription to access images)
* Every name indexed - index fields: First Name, Last Name, Census Place (Ward, Town/City, County, State), Age, Birthplace, Gender
* Source information: GSU Microfilm Number, NARA Microfilm Series M653, No Roll Number, Page Number

3) 1870 U.S. Census - 100% Complete:

* Images on FamilySearch Record Search and FamilySearch Beta sites.
* Every name indexed - First Name, Last Name, Gender, Age, Color, Birthplace, Residence (State)
* Source information: none provided

4) 1880 U.S. Census - 100% complete:

* No images on FamilySearch Record Search site or FamilySearch Beta site
* Every name indexed - First Name, Last Name, Residence (Town/City, County, State), Age, Birthplace, Relationship to Head, Race or Color, Gender, Ethnicity, Marital Status, Age, Occupation, Spouse Name*, Spouse Birthplace*, Father's Name*, Father's Birthplace*, Mother's Name*, Mother's Birthplace*
* Source Information: NARA Microfilm Series T9, Roll Number, GSU Film Number, Page Number

4) 1900 U.S. Census - 100% complete:

* Complete set of images on FamilySearch RecordSearch and FamilySearch Beta sites
* Every name indexed - index fields: First Name, Last Name, Residence (Town/City, County, State), Birth Date, Birth Place, Relationship to Head, Spouse Name*, Spouse Birthplace*, Father Name*, Father's Birthplace*, Mother's Name*, Mother's Birthplace*, Race or Color, Head of Household Name, Gender, Marital Status, Number of Years Married*, Mother Has How Many Children*, Number of Living Children*, Immigration Year*
* Source Information: No NARA Film Number, No Roll Number, GSU Film Number, Enumeration District, Sheet Number

5) 1910 US Census - 40% completed as of today: records for Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, and Texas.

* No images on FamilySearch sites
* Every name indexed - index fields: First Name, Last Name, Birthplace, Relationship to Head, Residence, Marital Status, Race, Gender, Immigration Year, Father's Birthplace, Mother's Birthplace
* Source Information: No NARA Film Number, No Roll Number, No GSU Film Number, No Enumeration District, Page Number

6) 1920 US Census - 98% Complete as of today

* No images on FamilySearch sites
* Every name indexed - index fields: First Name, Last Name, Residence (Ward, Town/City, County, State), Age, Birthplace, Relationship to Head, Gender, Race, Marital Status
* Source information: GSU Film Number, No NARA Film Number, Sheet Number

As my student noted, the information available is really inconsistent from census year to census year.

Wasn't there any oversight of the indexing of the U.S. census records? There should be year-to-year consistency in:

* Residence format (Ward, City/Town, County, State)
* Relationship, Gender, Race/Color and Marital Information Provided
* NARA Microfilm Number and Roll Number
* GSU Film Number
* Enumeration District and Page Number

As these census records are constituted at this time, they are very frustrating and difficult to use.

When there are no census page images available (in 1860, 1880, 1910, 1920), a family structure cannot be determined without refining the search to include a residence, and then the user has to search one person at a time. Finding persons with a different surname in a family is nearly impossible to do.

While compiling this list, I noticed that the 1850 and 1860 images are not available on the FamilySearch Record Search site. A notice comes up on the Record Search site saying to go to the Beta site and a link is provided.

The 1850 images are not available yet on the FamilySearch Beta site. Are datasets being migrated from the Record Search site to the Beta site? That will create even more confusion! Hopefully, the migration will be conducted in an orderly fashion. It would help if the user in Record Search was told that the images had been migrated to the Beta site and a link provided. When the user goes to the Beta site, the search fields must be re-entered.

The good news:

* It's all free;
* There are census page images for 1850, 1870 and 1900 only;
* There are every-name indexes for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900, 1910, 1920.

The not-so-good news:

* There are no images for 1880, 1910 and 1920, and a user must have a Footnote subscription to see 1860 images;
* The indexed fields are inconsistent year to year;
* The user cannot see whole families in census years without images
* Source information is non-existent for 1870, and is incomplete in all years but 1880

It's probably too late to fix many of these problems. I'm surprised that nobody else has complained about them before (perhaps others have and I missed them? If so, who?). I know that it's "Pilot" and then "Beta" sites - will they be in better shape when the final "new" FamilySearch.org is up and running? I hope so!

5 comments:

Jean Hibben said...

This is really a helpful list, Randy. Thanks for all your efforts on something I had on my "to do" list.

JT said...

More data for you:

Today I was trying to look at an 1870 census image, but received the message:

"This image is no longer available on Record Search. You might be able to see the image at fsbeta.familysearch.org"

On fsbeta, I was only able to view the index information, no image.

JT said...

Later, in fsbeta, I noticed a "feedback" button on the upper right, and found this page:

http://getsatisfaction.com/familysearch/topics/what_happened_to_census_images

Apparently a few others have had this problem. Someone from familysearch wrote:

"The project we anticipate will take several more weeks. Collections are being loaded one at a time and then images connected to the database. Please continue to check our web site over the next few weeks, chances are that the records you are seeking will then be available."

I guess that's encouraging ... I'm not all that impressed with the fsbeta search, however. I had just recently gotten proficient with the pilot search.

JireneGenealogy (my nom de plume, obviously) said...

Thanks for this list - very helpful! I know they are going to combine all of their sites "later this year" (I blogged about it this month in my blog), but you are correct: at least it is free! Irene

Anonymous said...

Looking for the name COWALL in the USA!
Can you help?