I’m always preaching: If you didn’t find it on Ancestry before, go back and look again. I’m sure that some people get sick of this, but there is a good reason for saying so. One is that Ancestry is always adding more stuff, millions of new records every year. The other is that Ancestry is committed to improving what is already there.

Audra forwarded this message from Ancestry to me a couple of days ago:

In a survey last year, top on the wish list of Ancestry.com members was improved images for U.S. Federal Censuses, one of the richest sources of information for family history searches. Improving this collection has been a top priority at Ancestry.com throughout 2009.

Today we’ve launched enhancements for six U.S. Census collections – in addition to the improvements on six censuses released a few months ago. In all, we’ve gone through more than 200 million records to improve images and many indexes.

Enhanced and clearer images are now available for the 1790-1900 censuses, and indexes have been improved for the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1900 censuses. All of the images have a cleaner, crisper look. And occasionally names can be read that were illegible before—either because they were too light, too dark, too blurry, too faded, or covered in tape, etc.

If you have had a hard time finding your ancestors in these censuses, it’s time to search again. Images already attached to family trees will be automatically updated, so census records saved there can easily be revisited.

As everyone knows, the indexes are a huge problem, because a simple mistranscription can prove disastrous. Any time you find one, you should report it to Ancestry, because they will be happy to make any corrections. I cannot speak for the “improvement” of indexes, because I haven’t had time to test them yet, but any improvement might prove crucial for that one person who you haven’t been able to find.

I did spot check the census images, and many of them are vastly improved as to readability.

So if you didn’t find it on Ancestry before, go back and look again. I’ll keep on saying that until I become a dead ancestor myself.

PS     If you are a wannabe Ancestry.com subscriber, but just can’t justify the cost, please be reminded that we pay a significant licensing fee every year so that Forsyth County Public Library patrons can access Ancestry free from our computers. You cannot do it from home via our website, but you can do it from any of our public access computers at Central or at any branch. So you don’t even have to come the North Carolina Room to use this great resource. Of course, if you don’t come downtown, you lose the benefit of interacting with our famously hospitable staff, so come on in and see us. Since our recent move, we have three computers reserved for NC Room business only, so can usually put you right to work. Ya’ll come.