and FamilySearch to Make US Censuses Free and FamilySearch to Make US Censuses Free

The two largest organizations in genealogy are embarking on a resource-exchanging partnership that will put more records online—starting with US censuses.Under the agreement, enhanced census indexes will be free for a limited time on and permanently on FamilySearch. Record images will be available by subscription on Ancestry...

The two largest organizations in genealogy are embarking on a resource-exchanging partnership that will put more records online—starting with US censuses.

Under the agreement, enhanced census indexes will be free for a limited time on and permanently on FamilySearch. Record images will be available by subscription on and free at FamilySearch’s 4,500 worldwide Family History Centers, as well as National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regional facilities.

FamilySearch, which is digitizing census records at NARA, will provide its record images to These newer images, created with more-recent technology, are of better quality than those available on will give FamilySearch its indexes to censuses from 1790 to 1930. FamilySearch Indexing volunteers will use them as a “first draft,” double-checking information and adding data fields (such as birth month and year) to create an improved index.

FamilySearch volunteers already were indexing some censuses, following a two-pass, arbitrated system: Each record is indexed twice by different people; a knowledgeable third person resolves any differences in the versions. The volunteers have completed a 1900 census index, now free at FamilySearch Record Search.

These existing FamilySearch indexes will be merged with’s indexes. (If a person’s name is indexed under different spellings, both spellings will remain.)

The partnership’s first exchange is the 1900 census. The improved record images are on now; the merged index will become available in August. Other censuses will be released over the next several years as the images and indexes are completed.

The census indexes on and FamilySearch will link to record images on If someone without an subscription clicks the image link, he’ll be prompted to join. Subscriptions cost $155.40 per year or $19.95 for a month. has long been the target of complaints about its census indexes, so the company and its subscribers will undoubtedly welcome the new-and-improved versions.

Friday, I had a chance to talk with representatives of both organizations, who agreed genealogists will appreciate the broader access to records, improved indexes and higher-quality digital images. On some record images, you even can see previously indiscernible notations, according to vice president of content Gary Gibb.

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  1. I can already get census images, except 1930, free via Heritage Quest through my public library and at home. Why pay for this if your library subscribes to the image service? Sorry to sound snarly, but I’ve been having trouble finding a relative lately and have exhausted places to go. You know how that feels.

  2. I love checking census records and always welcome something new! What’s bad for Illinois census records — there aren’t any for most counties in 1890 (i.e. White County, Gallatin, etc.)!

  3. No one owns the census information. But, whatever makes it more convenient for me to access, is good. I’m sure that once people realize that the information will be free from the LDS, they may not want to join However, I love the ease and convenience of Ancestry for many reasons. I will continue to use it as long as I can afford it.

  4. I also have the free Heritage Quest 1860-1920. I miss having 1850 and 1930. I have had ancestry in the past. It would be good to have access to both. Occasionally have used a NY state off-year census, at a library. Misspelled surnames are still a problem.

  5. Agree with previous comment &quot;mispelled surnames are still a problem.&quot; Glad to see in new post the sentence: (if a person name is indexed under different spellings, both spellings will remain) Hope you can find either spelling with the search engine. A lot of misspelled names are by the original census person. Would be nice if search engine could compare locations for several censes at one time in a manner to pick up persons who’s name was misspelled, or am I dreaming?

  6. Personally, I wish all of these were free services. I had a membership to for some time but when my employer closed the office, I couldn’t afford it anymore once my subscription ran out. I like all the improvements and additions that have been added to Ancestry over the years. On the FamilySearch site I was able to find some information that Ancestry didn’t have. Since these are now public record, I think they should be made freely available to everyone and I applaud the FamilySearch powers-that-be for keeping them free.

  7. The Family Search records are great, and I am glad they are getting them online. However, most of them will only be available online at LDS Family History Centers, and there are 2 problems with access there: First, the computers at those local centers have limited access because there aren’t enough of them (even at the main LDS History Library in Salt Lake, you often have to wait for a computer), and Second, most people even in the US don’t have an LDS History Center close to them. The Heritage Quest site is very helpful, and I use it alot, but it doesn’t have all the census records that Anestry and Family Search have. I realize that it costs money to run websites and to get these records online, however PUBLIC records, should be made public TO the public without cost. It is unfortunate that it can’t be done that way.

  8. I was first introduced to the Family Search a few weeks ago for the purpose of the Philadelphia Death Records 1803-1915. Yes I found it great to work with. Yes I found three records of death that I did not have before. But still one person remains a mystery for me. I did not try the Federal Census links yet. I have been to use to Federal Census over the years. Although Census has provided a lot of information for me, there is still things I cannot find and I have believed that it was because of the indexes. I have found it very frustrating over the years to get different search results on the same name when searching it just minutes apart. As with anything, it can be good but there is always room for improvement. I am now very curious to give this Family Search some additional time and searching.

  9. I use Heritage Quest frequently because I can’t afford Ancestry. There are several census’ that I miss looking through that HQ doesn’t have. When I did have ancestry subscription I also noticed that sometimes I found things on ancestry that weren’t on Heritage Quest, and vice versa. And for a while I could go to our Family History Center and look up for free; however, recently they discontinued that service, so I’m glad to see that it will be available again! Our FHC is greatly under-utilized, so no problem with computer access there.

    All of the information, of course, is available for free (the slow way — you search through it yourself on microfilm); however, it’s the fact that they are making it so readily available online that I believe ancestry is charging the subscription for. Seems fair to me — they’re a business providing a service. Thank you to FamilySearch for working out an agreement so that everyone can have access to it for free at the Family History Centers!