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Some pay sites require a membership fee to show census images. However, most census images that are available at all are available in PDF or other format for free at: Archive org.
You have to know what you are looking for because the census collection is very large. To learn what you are looking for, there are many indexes that are free including Family Search. Also, pay sites often provide teaser information that is sufficient to narrow down a search.
Family Search has images for some censuses for free, but for others they offer a link to their pay site partner. However, their index provides sufficient information to find the image if they do not have it for free.
To use Archive org you need the year of the census, the state, and the county. Reel number and township may also be helpful in narrowing things down.
Find the right reel at Archive org. Selected the census year from the first page and the state from the second page. Use the search-in-page feature of you browser to locate the correct reel using the county name. Always check to see if a county is only listed once. Notice the listing of reels will often go on for two or more pages. Check them all. Some counties may be split, so additional information from whatever index you used may help narrow it down to one.
When you are as certain as you can be that you have the right reel, click on it to go to its page. The reel is most likely available in several formats.
There is a read online and PDF link. There usually is also a link labeled HTTP and maybe one labeled Torrent. If you are set up to use Torrent you are on your own in figuring out how to use it. The HTTP leads to a directory listing of all the files derived from or related to the reel. Ignore the .gif file. It it just the small animated image that is shown on the reel page and is useless for research purposes. The .jp2 file is enormous. It contains jpeg2000 images of the reel. Jpeg2000 images are hard to work with and the file is enormous. It takes a long time to download even with a fast internet connection, not to mention vast amounts of disc space. It is also pretty pointless if you are looking for just one or two families.
More than likely you want to download the PDF file, which you can do from the reel page. These can be large (sometimes more than 500Mb) so this is only practical with a fast connection.
You need software to read the PDF file and to convert single pages into useable images.
On a unix-like system, your best bet is xpdf. (It may also be available for Windows and Mac.) Many pdf converter programs that promise to convert pdf to images produce unuseable png images.
The strategy is this over all: use your pdf viewer (suck as xpdf) to find the desired page. Print the desired page to a file (not to the printer) in PostScript format (.ps). Then use your best graphics program (probably Gimp or Photoshop) to import the .ps file, make whatever adjustments, and save it as your favorite format (probably .jpg).
You may have to jump around in the pdf file to find the page you want. Watch the township and other information at the top of the individual images. Additional information from the index you consult may help narrow your search down.
When you have found the right page print it, and only it, to a file in .ps format.
Import this file to your graphics program. Although these documents are basically black and white, importing them as color seems to work best. Manipulate the file (reduce, blow up, clip) as you wish, and save as .jpg. This should result in a not too enormous (by today's standards) legible image.
Categories: Help for Researchers
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