Picturing the Census

By Lindsay Muscato Premium

The race to create easy-access US census data continues: Heritage Quest <> and < > both say they’ll offer digitized records from the 1790-1920 censuses by year’s end.

Heritage Quest and its software side, SierraHome’s Generations <>, are launching a new site <> for what they say will be the largest collection of primary source documents on the Web. is the result of 10 years of restoration and transcription to create digital images with searchable indexes. At launch, the site will boast 3.5 terabytes of images and data (a terabyte being 1 trillion bytes) toward a goal of 10 terabytes. (By comparison, Microsoft’s much-publicized TerraServer <> of spy satellite images totals a mere 1.5 terabytes.) The census data — the equivalent of 12,555 rolls of microfilm — will encompass 10 million page images, representing more than 500 million Americans. And Heritage Quest promises to index new names at the rate of 500,000 per week. The new site will incorporate “sticky note” technology to help users working on the same page research in clusters by leaving each other messages.

Meanwhile,’s Ancestry site is also launching a document-images database, dubbed Images Online. The service debuted this summer with images of Civil War pension cards, and sample images of the census began appearing in August. Ancestry says all census records from 1790 to 1920 will be viewable and printable online, and will “more faithfully reproduce original documents” than its competitors, namely Heritage Quest. Subscribers will be able to search more than 1 billion records by the end of this year. Though prices were not set at press time, the company promises current Ancestry subscribers will enjoy a discounted price to access the census.

From the December 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine