Footnote.com, my favorite genealogy Web site that periodically gives terrific levels of free access, has announced that it’s making access to its US census documents available for “a limited time.”
First: what’s “a limited time”? Don’t know. And what’s “the Census”? You can get to the census documents at http://go.footnote.com/census/?iid=642 but don’t expect to see everything here. At the moment the most complete censuses are the 1860 census (100%) and the 1930 census (98%), with partial availability from the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses (none of these three censuses are over 5% complete.)
Now, what is available is kind of interesting; Footnote believes in crowdsourcing of genealogy documents. Once you’ve found someone in the census and you’re looking at their listing (note you have to have a Footnote.com account to view census images, but they’re free) you can add things. You can add photos, stories, comments, or related documents. You can also post a particular person to Facebook, bookmark them, or “like” them.
Most of my experience exploring the US Census has been via Ancestry, and it does seem that Ancestry has more data. But I kind of like the way Footnote.com lets you explore the census. In comparing it to Ancestry.com’s census explorer, it presents a more manageable set of results in a way that seems to me easier to review. Most of my ancestors were kind enough to have names that are spelled about eight different ways, and Ancestry.com gets really enthused about the possibilities. Footnote.com is more restrained, and the way the search form is set up it’s very easy to swap out different spellings and narrow down search results.
If recent TV shows about genealogy have gotten interested in your ancestors, this free collection from Footnote is a good way to dip your toe in the water. If after this you want more, though, check out one of the many sites on the Web that point the way to genealogy data. Cyndi’s List, at http://www.cyndislist.com/, is one of my favorites.