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
The USGenWeb 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
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 Ancestry.com. 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
http://www.usgwcensus.org. The transcription software is downloaded
from that site, under the heading of
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
http://www.usgwcensus.org/cenfiles/** 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
Earnie R. Breeding
Coordinator Recruitment and Training
USGenWeb Census Project
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