News Story

19th Century Censuses Draw Millions to Web


SALT LAKE CITY —; People searching their family roots are visiting in record numbers since last week's announcement that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made the 1880 U.S. and 1881 Canadian censuses available online. New visitor traffic surged immediately to more than 500 percent and remained six to 10 times above normal the following week

Site administrators attribute the high interest to the growing number of family history enthusiasts, the ease of access provided by online census databases and their value to people seeking information about their ancestors. This morning, visitors to continue to pore over the online censuses at a rate of three million hits an hour.

The online availability of the censuses was announced in a press conference by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley on 23 October in Salt Lake City with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "O Canada" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The announcement was telecast simultaneously to 27 cities.

Within minutes of the announcement, millions of family history enthusiasts searching for elusive U.S., Canadian or British 19th-century ancestors logged on to Television and newspaper stories, as well as Internet news sources, continued to announce the databases throughout the past week.

Users logged on from as far away as Australia. Australian Jan McAlpin said, "I …found families of my ancestors who I thought I would never be able to trace from Australia, and now I can go back another generation." Another searcher responded: "I am thrilled! I have found umpteen missing ancestors just in the past couple of days."

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, executive director of the Church's family history department, said: "People used to search through rolls and rolls of microfilm with varying degrees of success. Now with just a few keystrokes, they can search through millions of records from home or anywhere they connect to the Internet."

The census makes legendary figures come alive. The Canadian census lists Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald; Ojibwa Chief Jacob Berens; and Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery. In the U.S. census you can find Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the Wright brothers and Alexander Graham Bell.

The Church noted with appreciation the thousands of individuals who volunteered millions of hours over 17 years to create the popular indexes. In total, 85 million names were extracted for the two censuses.

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