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Mixed Media
2/1/2002
1880 census research gets a big boost from a huge CD-ROM set.
You could sum up the 1880 United States Census and National Index from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in one word: big. It's not just the sheer size of the CD set (56 discs of data) or the effort behind it (11.5 million hours over 17 years). This new resource could lead to big breakthroughs for genealogists who've lost their ancestors somewhere in late 19th-century America.

Federal censuses are generally regarded as the most important records for researching American family history. Without comprehensive indexes, however, finding your family in census records can be quite a challenge. Up to now, the 1880 census had only partial indexes. The WPA created one in the 1930s that covers only households with a child age 10 or younger. You also have to figure out the surname's Soundex code (a system of four-letter codes based on the way a name sounds — see <www.familytreemagazine.com/soundex.html>) and know the state where the family lived. Ancestry's recently created head-of-house-hold index is useful, but you'll have trouble if you don't know whom your ancestor lived with. This new CD set is a bigger help: It features not only an every-name national index, but also all the most important details from the census records.

The 1880 census CDs list the more than 50 million residents of the 38 states and eight territories as of June 1880. No federal census was taken in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). Data transcribed on the CDs includes not only each person's name, but also his or her relationship to the head of household, age, gender, race, marital status, occupation, birthplace and parents' birthplace.

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