What was it about FamilySearch's decision to index the 1900 U.S. Census that concerned people so much? One Ancestry Insider reader wrote,
Could you help answer one question I have had? Of all the projects to start indexing why did [FamilySearch Indexing] choose the 1900 census? I have my own ideas but I wonder if you have heard why. Thanks. Please keep these comments confidential.
Dear K.C., I promise I'll not tell another soul. Keep reading for the answer to your question.
Did We Just Declare War?
"Is everything OK at Ancestry.com?" a volunteer missionary of the FamilySearch department asked when FamilySearch announced the 1900 Census indexing project. "In our devotional today they announced that we were now at war."
"We Have a Bible..."
Another Insider reader wrote,
I signed up to do some indexing, but then decided it was kind of ridiculous to index [the 1900 Census] for Family Search when Ancestry and HeritageQuest have already indexed those same records. How many versions do we need?
At a recent conference an attendee asked a presenter from FamilySearch, "Why don't you just buy one of the existing indexes?The presenter froze and his voice trailed off, "We thought we had...."
The Real Answer
To get the real answer, we asked Paul Nauta, manager of public affairs for FamilySearch.
"We were seeking a record for the novice members of the Church in the United States that would give them a good indexing experience," said Nauta. Plus, the 1900 index project would produce a record set in which users would have "a high likelihood of success of finding someone in their living memory."
Many aspects of the census made it a good first project. It allowed FamilySearch to test some behind-the-scenes parameters. And "censuses are particularly easy for us to set up for indexing purposes, and of all the vital record types, censuses are the most user friendly to the novice indexer."
Nauta went on to explain that the 1900 U.S. Census includes a rich set of information. "[It] provides parents' birth place, number of children born to a mother, how many were still living, month and year of birth of each person, and more." He explained that given the loss of the 1890 census, it was particularly valuable to index the 1900 census which complements the 1880 census which they've already indexed.
Nauta revealed to the Insider that "FamilySearch Indexing is doing very well at this writing. We will be adding more censuses to the indexing cue shortly." Many indexers have already seen the first batches show up from the 1850 U.S. Census. FamilySearch made the choice public at the UGA Conference in Salt Lake last Wednesday.