Make Fast Work of Your Census Research

Filed in Free, On The Hunt, Resources, Skill Building by on 17 December 2012 2 Comments

Over the past week, I have been catching up on my blog reading. There were great posts about conducting extended census surveys, also known as cluster genealogy. I have made frequent use of this technique tracking down my Shivers kin.

Jenny Lanctot, at her blog Are My Roots Showing?, found potential family members when she expanded her search to an entire county rather than just her ancestor’s enumeration district. Jen Baldwin at Ancestral Breezes, on the other hand, showed just how many places you might have to look to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search.

These searches are very necessary for thorough research but they are quite time consuming. Page by page viewing has a page load time penalty which varies by website. Some of those load times can be substantial. I’ve have a strategy to speed up this process.

First, many sites offer pre-formatted, printable, blank census forms you can fill in by hand. I prefer to use a preformatted excel template for my data entry (See Resources links below). Second, for the actual process of viewing the census, I prefer to use Internet Archive. These non-indexed images are ordered by year and state. Several counties may be grouped into a record set. Or, for larger counties, there may be multiple record sets grouped by enumeration districts. For this example I am using the search term 1910 Census Louisiana Madison. In my own work, I find reading online easiest for compiling data to the excel template.

Select the thumbnail view for quick scrolling to your county’s title page.

Speed up your Census Survey

Once you reach the start of your county (or parish as the case is here), switch back to single page viewing.


There is a zoom tool allowing you to size these images up to focus primarily on the name column. I also scale the web page itself so I can have both the census and the excel template open simultaneously. This allows me to enter data into the excel template while directly viewing the census image without switching between them.


You are now ready to quickly scroll your way through all 278 pages of the 1910 Census for Madison Parish Louisiana!

Well, yeah, there is still the part where you actually have to look at 278 pages of census images searching for all the crazy spellings of your surname. But, I promise you, this method is considerably faster than pulling up each enumeration district individually at places like Ancestry and clicking through one page at a time.

Happy Hunting

Rorey Cathcart


Printable Blank Census Forms:

Excel Templates

Copyright (c) 17 December 2012

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Citation for this post:

Rorey Cathcart, “Make Fast Work of Your Census Research” posted 17 December 2012, The Who Hunter ( : accessed [DD Month YYYY])


About the Author ()

Professional genealogist and lecturer. Located in Charleston County, SC. Special research interests in South Carolina, Southern States, Irish Heritage and Migratory Patterns. Researcher for Genealogy Roadshow on PBS seasons two and three.

Comments (2)

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  1. Huh! A preformatted excel template of a blank census form. And then record sets from Internet Archive. Then entering & viewing at the same time. What a neat suggestion!

    When the 1940 Census first came out, I scrolled through several hundred pages of census of one county, not on Ancestry (not indexed yet), but on a website (?) Randy Seaver had written a column about. There were 42 districts, from 20 to 60 pages each.

    Wish I could re-live that week using your method. Great suggestions!

    • Oh Mariann, I am so sorry you had to go through that!

      I like Ancestry’s image viewer for small projects over Archive or Fold3 but for large scale surveys I was getting tired and going blind. Then, I’d worry I hadn’t given the project my best effort.

      Hope this method will prove helpful in the future for you. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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