Use Multiple Sources for Census Searches

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Use Multiple Sources for Census Searches

Do you use multiple sources for census searches?  Now that census images for the U.S. and UK are available online from multiple providers, it’s always a good idea to search each of them for your missing ancestors.

Why it’s a good idea to use multiple sources for census searches:

• Indexers may interpret handwritten names differently, leading family members to be indexed correctly at one provider, but not the other.

• Image quality may improve from another provider

• Some census years may be completely indexed at one provider and not at another

Heaven knows I’ve found more Scottish census information indexed clearly on FreeCen than I often do trying to read and understand abbreviations on my own.

FamilySearch, FreeCenUK, FindMyPast, Ancestry, MyHeritage, Heritage Quest: there is certainly no shortage of providers these days.

And one more tip: always always look at the original record. Don’t rely just on the abstract information.

Searching multiple sources for census searches may lead to elusive family members. Has this worked for you?

For most posts on census searches and records, click here.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”


  1. Lisa Wallen Logsdon 5 July 2011 at 8:04 AM

    Excellent tip! There are a few in my tree that have continually eluded me for certain years. I know they are SOMEWHERE because they show up in a later census. I almost always used Ancestry so I’ll give the others a try and see what happens! Thanks!

  2. Heather Kuhn Roelker 5 July 2011 at 9:00 AM

    This is definitely a good tip. I have found several ancestors I couldn’t find previously while searching the census records. Their transcription differences from Ancestry were just enough for a wild card search to find my ancestors.

  3. Nancy 5 July 2011 at 10:52 AM

    This is so true! Also, sometimes I can find an ancestor at FamilySearch but there’s no image. I go to HeritageQuest with the known information and can usually see and copy the image. I have experience with every one of your suggestions. Thanks for sharing the tip for those who don’t know and for reminding those of us who do.

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