FamilySearch and Team to Publish New Images and Enhanced Indexes to the U.S. Censuses


New 1900 Census Images Now Available on; Volunteer Indexers Sought to Improve the 1920 U.S. Census IndexFamilySearch.bmp

SALT LAKE CITY— 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

Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, welcomed this agreement as a significant benefit for researchers. He remarked that, “Census records are among the most important documents the American people have to trace their genealogy and know their family history. Having two of our partners working together to enhance the indexes and images of these essential documents will enable an unprecedented level of access and understanding.”

The first census exchanged is the 1900 U.S. Census. FamilySearch completed a 1900 index in addition to’s original. In the new index, FamilySearch added several new fields of searchable data, such as birth month and birth year, so individuals can search for ancestors more easily. The two indexes will be merged into an enhanced index, available on both sites. The new 1900 census images are now available on The enhanced 1900 index will be available for free for a limited time at and ongoing at will also provide FamilySearch its original 1920 U.S. Census index. Using the index as a first transcription, FamilySearch will create a new second index with added fields and arbitrate any discrepancies between the two indexes. The 1920 project is currently in progress. Individuals interested in helping create the improved index can volunteer at Once completed, the enhanced 1920 index will be available on both sites and will link back to images on

The 1850 through 1870 (partial) and 1880 and 1900 U.S. Censuses can be searched currently at; all publicly available U.S. Censuses are already available on

Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of, said, “This collaboration represents a significant step forward in making family history research more accessible. The enhanced U.S. Federal Census Collection that will become available through this agreement is a gold mine for family history researchers, and we look forward to collaborating with FamilySearch in identifying other opportunities to help people discover their roots.”

“The U.S. Censuses are arguably the most important collection of U.S. genealogical records. FamilySearch is excited to see the complete, improved indexes of these collections freely available online over the next two years. And we look forward to working with to enhance access to additional, significant collections in the future,” said Jay Verkler, Managing Director for FamilySearch.

With 26,000 searchable databases and titles and nearly 3 million active users, is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. is part of The Generations Network, Inc., a leading network of family-focused interactive properties, including,, and Family Tree Maker. In total, The Generations Network properties receive nearly 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide. (© comScore Media Metrix, March 2008). To easily begin researching your family history, visit

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world’s largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.


22 thoughts on “FamilySearch and Team to Publish New Images and Enhanced Indexes to the U.S. Censuses

  1. Interesting. My first reaction to this was wondering when the announcement will me made of the merger of the two organizations and whether it will be “Ancestry FamilySearch” or “FamilySearch Ancestry”. LOL. Two powerhouses working together = good things to come? One can only hope.

  2. I am more worried about the word “merge” than anything else. I like having separate databases with separate indexing so I can compare them myself, for accuracy. I am also a bit worried that familysearch is giving/trading? to the product of thousands of volunteers. Henceforth will images not be available for free at familysearch? That’s how this sounds. If I’ve read this correctly, it sounds as though to view the images of the census records, one will be required to:
    a.) go to a Family History Center,
    b.) go to a NARA reading room, or
    c.) spend money at

    Familysearch and can, of course, do whatever they like, but I am saddened by this news, which given the price of gas, essentially leaves holding a monopoly on the viewing of census images. What will happen to the remaining volunteer indexed databases at familysearch? FamilySearch needs to be up-front with it’s volunteers, if they plan to trade, give or ?? volunteered records to any fee based company.

  3. I’m with Judy on this – my reading of the announcement is that the images that Family Search is providing will NOT be available (for free) on

    This doesn’t sound like the direction that I was expecting FamilySearchIndexing to be going with this – I was expecting that eventually all of these volunteer indexed record sets would be available as indexes AND images for FREE on


  4. Judy,

    I do not believe that Family Search has ever said that they would be in the business of serving up images of the records after the indexing period was over. Which is why they asked for proposals for partnerships previously with various commercial sites.

    So the model seems to be they host up the images long enough to get them indexed, and then a commercial vendor hosts same long term, allowing the family history centers free access (and possibly members of the LDS Church from home in some way??).

    They simply are not going to host digitized images of millions of rolls of microfilm.


  5. Boy this is really something for those of us who are typing away to find answers to. I would hate for my volunteering to become part of a pay to use database that I would not have access to. It was such a great idea that everyone would help out and make these films available to all — for free.

  6. I’d be curious if anybody at familysearch could weigh in. Are the census indexing and images not going to be available at familysearch online for free in the future? If that’s the case I’ll have to seriously reconsider spending time on indexing for familysearch. I don’t get any benefit out of having to either pay and/or drive to a family history center to review records I’ve helped index and while enjoy helping others with my genealogy and indexing, I prefer to have it be mutually beneficial.

  7. They will be available free – at any LDS family history center or a branch of NARA. They’re just not free to you at home. The FHL never made a commitment to serve up millions of digital images online.


  8. Mike,

    I’m curious do you work for LDS/Family Search? Or is it simply your understanding from some other source that the family search records will no longer be available for free online (except at the family history centers)?


  9. Karl,

    No I am not connected to LDS/Family Search nor a member of that church. Go to Dick Eastman’s blog site for a fuller discussion of this issue and criticisms thereof.

    From everything I have read the indexes created by volunteers will always remain free, including online. However the images used to create those indexes will only be free if you go to a family history center or a NARA branch.

    Also note that the images you can see right now for free through the Family Search website, are only through the beta Record Search. This does not mean even those images will always be available there, just the indexes to same (so grab em while you can).

    I think all of this highlights a misunderstanding of what Family Search intended long-term with the indexing project. Again just from what I have read in the past, my understanding is that they intended to have volunteer created indexes available free online, and the images linked to same free at the FHL in SLC and the local FHC’s. But not that they intended to host on their own servers all the images created from their digitization projects. Hence the reason they solicited proposals last year from various commercial providers like Ancestry, Footnote, World Vital Records, etc.

    Let me note too that for those of us who are subscribers to Ancestry, this is a huge win as it will represent a fix to long-standing and ignored census image and indexing problems. Also, while I am a frequent critic of many of Ancestry’s plans like the new search which ignores the needs of experienced users who need exact searches on every field by specific databases, the often quoted “high” annual subscription fees for Ancestry are not really that high. Broken down by the month it is less than $15/month for a US deluxe subscription. That is pretty cheap for a prop for any hobby.


  10. Thanks Mike for the clarification.

    I agree on your other comments too; and it will be nice to have better images and a combined index. Also, while Ancestry has done some things that really annoy me, you really do get a lot for your $.

  11. My thoughts are the following (and I hope I’m right).

    I hope that what’s on the web site NOW and indexed by volunteer will be available for free.

    I mean LDS is digitizing their ENTIRE microfilm collection. Index of that (and presumably the images should be FREE).

    What isn’t going to be free is any images from PAY services, like or (British census records).
    By taking the indexes to these sites, it will save time and bring indexes up much faster than volunteers can do.

    But I do believe that the microfilm that LDS itself is digitizing (the entire collection) should be available for FREE online. Of course, that digitizing process may take many years to complete.

  12. One thing that may not be understood very well is that although the LDS church is scanning the microfilm, they do not own the rights to digitally publish much of that microfilm. Things they have those rights to they will be able to publish, if they don’t have those rights they will try to acquire them, and that may often require some negotiation. But those records are often still owned by other organizations, and digital publication rights is a completely different set of rights than those they currently have to show and circulate microfilm.

    The LDS church knows that they can’t get all the records in the world in the hands of those who need it. So you will be seeing these partnerships more and more as time goes on so that others can share in the “work” so to speak of getting them in the public’s eye.

  13. Pingback: The Genealogical Revolution Will Be Digitized | MetaFilter

  14. Well I am not promoting Ancestry but for me it saves me time and money.
    I live in a rural area and the closest place with records is almost 100 miles away and you only have certain hours.
    With Ancestry I save my gas money and I can search at my leasure usually late night as I work so time is limited for the day.
    Again I know they have problems but for me it is beneficial.

  15. Quite aside from the cost shifting that may be going on, still has much to do to improve its current indexes. For years I have been complaining to about gross omissions in the 1820 census of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, without any expectation that they intend to address the problem.
    It has been my experience that through the assembly line technique used by, they have been quite indifferent to user needs. They move on to more projects, rarely looking back.
    The problem with the 1820 census of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania is that for most townships, only the first half of the alphabet is indexed. This is because the enumerator alphabetized the census with the first half of the alphabet on the left side of the page and the last half of the alphabet on the right side. The indexer overlooked the right side of the census pages. The information is in the images, the indexer just ignored them and has long lost interest in improving its data bases.

  16. I’m curious about the indexing. Over time, I have submitted many corrections to’s indexes, where transcribers missed the mark. I wonder if those corrections will be the “shared” version.

  17. I’d just like to know how you’re getting Ancestry for $15 a month, my sub. is $30 for the world and $20 for US, I find this very high. I had a free years sub with 2006 Ancestry and now they want to charge me double.

  18. I’m with Bettie as I have also “corrected” many names on the census records. However, I am really concerned if these changes go to an “arbitration”. Some of the corrections are for just bad translation of obvious spellings of the names but some were written incorrectly in the original. How much of this is going to be changed, I wonder. Also, I’m concerned with what is currently happening with Ancestry’s version of the census – there are “corrections” being submitted which are totally incorrect. For instance, I recently found two that are my direct line, nearly immediate relatives, relatives that I had known personally and/or had all kinds of documentation showing the spelling of the name where someone submitted incorrect “corrections”. In one case, the transcription was correct to begin with and someone added a name that is totally incorrect; in the other, I had sent in a correction (incorrect transcription) and someone else sent one in that was again totally incorrect. I wonder how much this type of misadventure is going to screw up the census records to the point that thay may not be of much worth to us?

    I also do know of at least one case where the LDS record for a person was incorrect and a direct relative, with the documentation to prove the correct information could not get the LDS to correct the information. That also is scary, especially when names or other information go to arbitration but the party doing the arbitration does not have any supporting documentation.

  19. Bettie, you say you have submitted corrections to Ancestry on the indexing and transcribing of the indexes. I have emailed them countless times to ask how we could submit corrections and they have never responded. What method or addy did you use to submit corrections and did Ancestry ever acknowledge your work? Some of the errors are so horrendous, that it is a miracle I located my families. Anyone else have any experience in trying to correct some of the census transcriptions? As far as I am concerned, if the errors aren’t corrected, then a merged index between the 2 giants won’t help me much!

  20. In the 1900 census in many counties, the surnames were written over by someone, I think doing a tally. My GGGrandparents in Washington County, Kansas is an example. The name DOSER is unreadable, but I found the family by searching the microfilm for first names. Is there a way I can get this family added correctly to an index so that others searching for them will find them?

  21. Mel, at, whenever you click on a specific name in a list of census results to bring up an individual’s chart of information, you will see a box at the left with 5 links to Page Tools. The third link, with a pencil as the icon, is to a page to submit Corrections and Comments. On the page for submitting Corrections and Comments, you can enter a correct given name and/or a correct surname and a brief paragraph explaining why the info you are submitting is correct.

    This is vitally important for all of us to do that for those individuals we truly know. Many of my corrections have been for my Hachez ancestors — whose surname was often transcribed as Hachey because the transcribers didn’t understand the old-fashioned script z that has a tail below the line! Ancestry has added all of my alternate names and now all of these individuals can be found when people search for Hachez.

    The Ancestry index is riddled with errors, apparently because transcribers were told to do their best to guess what the letters were, rather than what the name actually could be based on known given and surnames. The Heritage Quest index to the census [most years indexed] is much more accurate. And is free from most public libraries, able to be used at home.

    I hope that the arbitrators look very carefully at the submitted corrections so that the outcome is a much better index! I appreciate everyone’s comments.

  22. Just another way for to “justify” their outrageous fees! Also, their indexing is terrible – riddled with mistakes.

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