Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Comparing Census Image Quality

There are several copies of the United States Census online and it occurred to me that some of them are much lesser known than others. One reason for having more than one copy of any particular Census is to see if the copies are better from one company to another. So I decided to make a random comparison of images from the 1930 U.S. Census to see the differences. In each case, you can click on the image to get an enlarged view. I use a 27 inch high resolution Apple iMac monitor and so my opinion about which is best may be colored by my equipment.

The first image is from the most popular and well known online source for viewing the Census records, Here is a page from the 1930 U.S. Census for Joseph City, Navajo, Arizona, showing my Great-grandfather:

This is a very good, clean image. the information is readable and in good contrast.

So what happens with an image from a different website, this time from Guess what? does not have images for the 1930 U.S. Census. You are sent to for the image. So in this case, the images are the same.

What about HeritageQuest? After spending some time paging through the 1930 U.S. Census records, because of an absence of an index, I finally did find a copy of the same page. I had to save it to my computer as a .tif file and then it would not save in Photoshop as a .jpg so I saved it as a .png. Here is the copy of the same page from

A careful comparison of the quality to the images indicates that they came from the same source. There is a small tear in the paper on the left margin and it appears in both images, so the images are the same. However, the Heritage Quest image is slightly easier to read and quite a bit clearer.

Who else has copies of the 1930 U.S. Census?  Well, for one. Here is the image of the same page:

Hmm. You can probably tell just by looking at the small version of the image that it is better than the other two. You can tell that the "tear" in the page is not a tear, but a piece of paper. You can also see the details much better. They all come from the same source, but so far wins on this particular page.

The next set of images come from This image took much, much longer to load than the others, in fact, I came back and wrote the rest of this information about the image while it was loading. I knew it couldn't be either my connection to the Internet or the speed of my computer, but the image took forever to load. I finally decided to go take a nap and see if the image ever came up. It didn't, so I decided to go to the 1920 U.S. Census and see if Henry Tanner would come up. I had the same problem in viewing the 1920 image. Maybe was just having a bad day on the Internet? So, you will have to wait to see images if they ever come up. also has a copy of the U.S. Census online, but I do not have a subscription to that website. But you also need to know that is part of but the images come from or the parent company of Heritage Quest.

In my opinion, the free images from are probably the best of the batch. But, of course, the reason for comparing the images is because they may vary from one image to another and so if the images are are looking at are unreadable, try one of the other copies.


  1. Thanks for the image comparison. I've thought about doing it, but never gotten to it. You are a prince among men and a true asset to our Genealogy community.

    FYI as a fellow Mac User, I can report that Graphic Converter by does a quick conversion of .tif to .jpg and never looks back. His software tackles lots and lots of image conversion, rotation, cropping and batch resizing tasks and MUCH more with aplomb. And his pricing is phenomenally reasonable.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to comment that I can view 1930 Federal Census images from FamilySearch, as well as 1920 and 1910 Censuses, but only if I log in. I am not an LDS member but I index a lot (maybe that's why?).