Teaming Up for Free Census Records

Teaming Up for Free Census Records

Two big genealogy organizations join to expand census access.

The two biggest players in the genealogy business have embarked on a resource-exchanging partnership that will put more records online — starting with all available US censuses.

The agreement between The Generations Network <> (owner of subscription service < >) and FamilySearch <> makes enhanced census indexes free permanently on FamilySearch and for a limited time on

Digitized record images will be available by subscription on < > ($155.40 per year or $19.95 for a month). They’ll be free at FamilySearch’s 4,500 worldwide Family History Centers, as well as National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) <> regional facilities.

The first exchange was the 1900 census, released in August. Other censuses will be released over the next several years as the images and indexes are completed.

FamilySearch, which is digitizing census records at NARA, is providing its record images to replace those on These newer images, created with more-recent technology, are of better quality than those available on is giving FamilySearch its censuses indexes. FamilySearch volunteer indexers 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 had indexed some censuses, including the 1900 count, following a two-pass, arbitrated system: Each record is indexed twice by different people; a knowledgeable third person resolves differences between the versions. Those existing FamilySearch indexes are being merged with’s indexes, then posted on both sites.

The census indexes on both sites will link to record images on If someone without an subscription clicks the image link, he’ll be prompted to join. has long been the target of complaints about its census images and indexes. In a joint announcement, both organizations agreed genealogists will appreciate the broader access to records, more-accurate indexes and higher-quality digital images. According to vice president of content Gary Gibb, on some record images, you even can see previously indiscernible notations.
From the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine