Alabama Census Project

As with all projects we are learning as we go and we appreciate all of the feedback we have received.  This is what beta testing is all about and your feedback provides us with the necessary fuel to make adjustments and changes to the software and the projects we are working on. 

With the Alabama Census records we are trying a new approach of not having to select a specific form for each year of the census, avoiding confusion in the selection process and hopefully making things easier for you.  It appears that we were successful in avoiding confusion but may have created a few new issues! 

The highlighted area on the records you have keyed has likely been larger than you need it to be, and doesn’t always appear to move along with what you are typing in.  We have made adjustments to the highlighted field and you should now find it a lot easier to follow along with the records.  (A big “Thank you!” to our developers for their quick work.)  We are still working on making the project easier to key, in the meantime here are a few tips that will assist you with the highlighting:

1) When you are marking the form positions the goal is to draw the top of a rectangle around the names with the crosshairs of the marker.  The further away from the name that you place the markers the larger your highlighted box will be.

2) If you do need to adjust the highlighting you can scroll over the area, then click and drag the highlighting to where you want it to be.

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Reader Comments

This is a great improvement and a lot better to deal with. Thanks so much to the developers for their speedy correction.

I’m still wondering how to key the last name when the last name is in parenthesis and is a full name (first and Last) or two last names.

Seems we need some clarification on keying names for the 1866 Alabama census.

Looks to me like the names on the right in parentheses are those of property owners, not “colored” residents. We need to be instructed to ignore these names if the intention is that we not collect them.

Also, shouldn’t there be a box for recording the year as there was with Nebraska returns?

Going a lot better now. I only have to move the page to mark and when entering the top part. Otherwise it’s a lot better to follow.


I believe that these are the Slave Holders names, and as much as we might like to forget them, most of these people that the cencus is collecting data on don’t have “last names” until someone gave them one. Perhaps when they were sold, or after years of being owned by the same family. It is also possible that current family members are aware from family stories, what the “Masters” names were. This would assist in helping modern descendants in finding their ancestors. I put the owners information in the Prefix location and gave feedback yesterday on the fact that they should incorporate that information for the above mentioned reasons. After all, could you recognize your relatives if all you were given is their first name and the town they lived in? Not usually. African Americans have blessed little to go on in these earliest years, I think we should help them as much as possible.

After re-reading, I want to make sure people realize I meant forgetting about the slave holders, not the slaves….

Putting the property owners names in the prefix box is creative. But is that what Ancestry wants us to do? They need to clarify this issue.

Just a couple things; when we run across an abbreviated name such as “Thos”, are we supposed to write “Thomas” or leeave it as written? Also, I deciphered a surname after moving on to the next page and was unable to go back and make a correction. Is there a way to do that? I’m having a great time. Keep those documents coming!!

I’m still having trouble with the highlighter not moving down the page correctly. I echo Lynn Strandberg’s concern about not being able to go back and correct a previous page. Let’s go back to letting us submit the finished images instead of having it done automatically.

I agree, it is better, but it still does not follow along properly. We need a way to adjust the box height at the start.

Lynn, I think you should enter the abbreviation exactly as it is. Ancestry’s search engine is smart enough to know common abbreviations.

Well, they can always come out and say one way or another. But I would rather make sure that information was in the archive than not…

I could fly through these much faster if the set position box would follow along correctly.

On the Negro entries where only the first name is available, I used the plantation or owner as the surname. I don’t know how anyone could look up potential relatives if you don’t include the plantation or owner’s name. Simply putting in the first name seems useless to me for possible look-ups.

Now is not the time to make political statements. History is history. It doesn’t matter what we think about the slave holders, we are supposed to be assisting people in looking up potential relatives.

Worries me that we’re not asked to record the census year. I’ve had sets from 1850, 1860, 1866.

Can anyone tell me where the downloaded image goes. I have windows Vista, which I hate. However I download and image and I absolutely have no idea where it goes, so I generally just key on line. Would appreciate any help on this issue.

I just transcribed my first images (1855 Tuscaloosa County, Alabama State census).
# 1- I most definitely think the year needs to be indexed for accurate research purposes. After All, we want this to be a great workable index and nothing something one has work really hard to figure out what is going on (like with the civil war records).

# 2. The image would always just back to the top, making it difficult to transcribe accurately or very fast.

# 3. Somehow (I’m sure it was something I did wrong) lost a set of images and started to key again, when I couldn’t get the highlight to stay to the left so I could at least see the names and then I guess I hit send or submit or something and poof they went away, so one section was not transcribed at all.

When we encounter schools do we want to include these names?

I am new to this and it is so much fun. But I totally agree with Margaret’s (# 17) points. The same thing happened to me. I did not get my first one totally transcribed either. Then on my second set, it just won’t go away. I have transcribed it fully 2 times, the records were transmitted successfully both times and it still shows that it is an incomplete data set. I canceled it out and it is still showing as incomplete. Any suggestions as to how to get rid of this? Thanks for your help.

I’m glad to help with the project but had a very difficlt time with the time it took. Every time I entered a name the page went up out of view. I never got the colored screen to work so it took at least double the time it should have. I read about setting the corners closer and will try it on the next set. Thank you for letting me help. I hope it goes better on the next set.

There has been suggestions that specific instructions be furnished for recording Colored Schedules (Slave Schedules) before the War Between the States in the Alabama censuses.
I find that it is completly impossible to do for the one I have found so far. Please get us some instructions on this. I have a schedule that has only owner’s names with the slaves only numbers in the talley. What do I do?

Okay, not understandinding the alabama cencus. I had troubles with the so. calif. naturalization indexes, so I went to the alabama census. Why are these so hard to figure out? I’m about ready to call it quits and get out of the archive project. Too many rules (all are different). Maybe the ones who figure all the ways to do this, should look at again and do something about it. Thank you for listening to my rants. I would like to really do this, but having had trouble with both of these projects makes me think this isn’t for me. I had trouble looking for my family tree(we all know what that is about)but did it. I wanted to help someone make it easier for themselves. This page epecially afhecter’s I’ve no clue what she saying. I need help or I will have to quit this. I am so frustrating with this. I need someone to make rules and keep to them, because I’m sure that there are more who feels like me.

Thanks for listening

I am also having a hard time with the highlighter. It really slows the process down, it would be nice if they could give a person the option to not use the highlighter (at least until it is improved).

Neither did I have trouble with the Alabama census until I had done over 500 records. Then they give me a Colored census for 1866. It has only names of (I assume) the owners of the property where the colored people live. The owners are listed like a head of family. Doesn’t anyone have instructions for these?

I hope I am not messing up, but when the highlighter gets off the name, I am adding a blank to show that there was nothing to key in the highlighted area. Then moving to the next blank moves the highlighter to an actual name.

Twice now I’ve received an “error has occured” message when I accidentally hit the Slash key in- stead of the Shift key. I was able to continue OK, except I lost the drop down/up suggestion box. Normal capability was restored when starting a new form.

Type your comment here.


I quit until someone expains the highlighter thing to me. Too long of a process paging up and down after every entry.

Just did my first set of images from 1866 Alabama State Census…OMG!!!My hat is off to those who have done this before.
I would suggest try to send these to Geneology clubs where say 10 or more people can work on a set of images at one time. Then send it on to another large group and then on to the third person for review. Or hire one of those guys from the FBI who analize hand writng. Are they all this difficult to transscribe or is Alabama a exception?

After having successfully setting several sets, I have been having trouble holding the image positioning in my last set. I set it 4 or 5 times and it kept covering the whole page, even though I set it at the beginning and end of the first name only. It jumped all over the place while I was keying. It took me longer to find the next name than it did to key the name in. I would think this would be an easy fix for a competent programmer. I’ve read this same complaint time and time again throughout these comments.

On a positive note, I went to Google and typed in Calligraphy and it listed Identifont and I went there and found a beautiful example of the writing of the 1866 era, it was Shelley Script Allegro. I copied and pasted it into PowerPoint and enlarged it to page size and printed it. I use it all the time.


I have now transcribed several sets from the Alabama census, mostly in Mobile County. I live in Alabama, and I think this gives me an edge on deciphering some of the names. It puzzles me, though,when the program highlights a perefectly ordinary name, such as McDonald or Melton, and says “this is not a suggested name” for this entry. Why not? It is perfectly clearly written. Where do the suggestions come from, anyway?

I found that a quick, simple way to go down the list is to click on the down arrow on bottom right (not the slider). This moves the names and the entry boxes down for you. I then use this method to double check.
Now that I have discovered this, I have not left anyone out – a pain to have to correct.

I just finished keying two image sets of the Alabama Census. These sets were for Colored but did not have the county filled in on the forms. After some research using the 1870 U.S. census and comparing names, I determined that the images were from Macon county. I still left the County field blank rather than to confuse the situation more.

I have typed over 30,000 entires for the Alabama census project.

While the writing is sometimes odd, it seems to flow pretty well once you ge used to the high liter not working. I ignore it and simply keep the line above in sight so I don’t miss any.

I use the page contrast a lot. It helps.

I have Entry (486333_74) to key. The names are listed on a hand drawn form that includes columns for Slaves and Free Persons of Color. There is no county named. Has anyone else encountered similar images and if so, what did you do about keying them? Did you do it without the county or did you make some determination. Also, I would like to know the year of this census.

Don’t know what is the way it should be done, but if there is no county, what choice do you have but to leave it blank. I did.

When I came across the ones that had employ or imploy, I put that information all in the first box and left everything else blank.

I had about 30 pages of that.

I want to add that if the county name is missing on the top of the form, scroll down to the bottom of the page and look left and right. Sometimes the censustaker forgot to list it on the top, but included it on the bottom where he signed it.