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USGenWeb Free Census Project Help, Leave a Legacy for Genealogists in 1/2 to 1 hour/day

We all benefit from the work of earlier researchers. Whether their research is published in a family book or in a family group sheet that covers one of our ancestral families. Now here is a chance to leave a legacy that will be used by genealogists for the foreseeable future.

The USGenWeb Free Census Project has undertaken the unenviable task of transcribing all available Federal Censuses from 1790 to the latest release from NARA. In April 2002, the 1930 Census will be released. This provides a wealth of research possibilities, but also increases the work load.

This work is done by volunteer transcribers. They use their own computers and software provided by the project. There are three different packages of software. These are templates, CART & CenTrans. Templates are available for every census that has been released, including the remnants of the 1890 census. They are also available for all mortality schedules and the 1850 and 1860 Slave schedules, and the special Indian questions on the 1900 census. In addition they are available for every population census taken since 1790.

The two Programs, CART and CenTrans, are for the population censuses. CART only covers 1850, 1860 and 1870. CenTrans is really the gem of this group.

Centrans has features allowing the automatic repetition of certain information most likely to be repeated within a group, such as dwelling number, family number, surname, and places of nativity. Should an automatic entry be wrong it can easily be typed over with the information that the transcriber finds by looking at the image of the original census record.

The transcriber must furnish the images in most cases, since the project has no budget to pay for them. Images can be obtained at no cost at many libraries, Archives and LDS Family History Centers. In fact the FHC's will order the necessary images and provide a reader for a nominal cost. Generally $3-$5 for each census. Images may also be obtained by purchase of CD-ROMs, or by subscribing to online services such as that provided by Additionally there are limited images posted on the Internet, some on USGenWeb sites and others at various locations. A new type volunteer has recently appeared. At least one volunteer is making copies of the NARA film images and posting them to his web site for the use of this project and for any genealogist interested.

For those interested in helping this project, a great deal of information is available at The transcription software is downloaded from that site, under the heading of Help.

If you are interested in assisting, you can select almost any county and census. About 5% of extant censuses are completed. Another 2-3% is in process. Thus over 90% of the censuses are still available for transcription. Don't worry that you do not have time to do all of New York City, even in the 1850 census. For those censuses prior to 1870, the maximum that a transcriber can undertake at one time is one entire county. Larger counties are broken into much smaller districts for assignment. For censuses 1880 and later, a maximum of 6 enumeration districts (EDs) may be assigned, although it is suggested that assignments be restricted to no more than three EDs be assigned at a time. The transcription must be a new work. No copying of copyrighted material is permitted. Should a prior transcriber desire to donate their transcription for publication, then that may be accomplished with proper permission from the Management team.

In addition to transcribers, the project also need some management personnel. Each state is coordinated by a State Census Coordinator (SCC). Several of these positions are available for assignment. The positions are being filled by those handling more that one state at present. Approximately 15 SCC's could be used so that each SCC would be responsible for only one state.

By far the largest group needed are second transcribers. These volunteers are responsible for doing a comparison of the original transcriber's work to the census images. This proof reading job generally is much faster than the original transcription, but is just as important.

Completed transcriptions are posted by state at** where the appropriate postal code is substituted for the **.

In addition to the states admitted to the union, federal censuses have been taken in the various territories, even those not yet admitted to the union. Also censuses have been taken of Military, Naval and Consular personnel on the high seas or in foreign countries. All these images need to be transcribed when willing volunteers are found.

A note to genealogists: even though these transcriptions are the best that can be produced, it is recommended that each person verify the information from original images when proving ancestral lines.

Earnie R. Breeding
Coordinator Recruitment and Training
USGenWeb Free Census Project


When transcribing the census, MAKE A BACKUP COPY!

Census Project since 1997

A Gift of the Past for the Future! Started in February, 1997, The USGenWeb Free Census Project is an all-volunteer project to transcribe census records in a standard format in order to make them available to genealogical researchers on the Internet.

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