The Holy Grail of online censuses Digitized images

Many genealogists are no longer satisfied with using transcribed information. After all, even if you find useful information, you must take a second step to confirm the information through a copy of the primary record. To avoid this two-step process, subscription sites have been focused on digitizing the complete population schedules of the United States census. The largest of these collections are found at the following sites.

HeritageQuest Online

HeritageQuest Online (, a fee-based site produced by ProQuest, LLC, houses digitized images of United States census population schedules from 1790 to 1930. The collection numbers more than 10 million images taken from 12,555 rolls of microfilm. These images are bitonal (black and white) and require a TIFF viewer plug-in for your Web browser. Indexes for the images are included for 1790 to 1820, 1860 to 1870, and 1890 to 1930. In the case of the 1870 index, only selected individuals are indexed. If you're looking for individuals in other censuses, you must browse the images much as you would when using microfilm. A unique feature of the site is a sticky-note feature that enables you to annotate the census images. For example, if you have a correction or more information on a census entry, you can post a sticky note mentioning that fact. You can also use the feature to tell others that you're researching that family so they can share information with you.

U.S. census images and indexes currently offers the largest collection of U.S. census images at iid=3717.

This resource contains the 1790 to 1930 census population schedules, an 1890 Census fragment, 1890 Veteran's Census Schedules, Slave Schedules from 1850 and 1860, Mortality Schedules from 1850 to1880, and the 1930 Merchant Seaman census. The images are 256-color grayscale, which typically makes them clearer than bitonal images. The site offers a plug-in viewer that displays the images in your Web browser. Also, these censuses contain indexes of every name to speed your search along. There are also some tools to assist you in your experience with the censuses. You can use a magnify feature that increases the size of the image in particular areas, and you can also save and print the images. Figure 5-6 shows the census enumeration of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham is a lawyer with an estate worth $5,000. He is living with his wife Mary and sons Robert, Willie, and Thomas. Above the image are icons for the tools such as Drag, In, and Out that help users manipulate the image.

Figure 5-6:

Digital image of the 1860 Census enumeration for Abraham Lincoln at Ancestry. com.

Figure 5-6:

Digital image of the 1860 Census enumeration for Abraham Lincoln at Ancestry. com.

Some noncommercial efforts also provide digitized census images. The primary source for these is the USGenWeb site. Its census images are available at

The images are of various qualities and, in some cases, are difficult to read. You can't zoom in on these images (as you can with some commercial offerings), but they're available to researchers free of charge. Figure 5-7 shows an example 1860 Census image of Brevard County, Florida from the USGenWeb census project.

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