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Bridging Gaps in History: The Census Tree

August 30, 2023

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In recent years, great strides have been made to increase the family history work, particularly for women and those in minority groups. One such development has been the creation of The Census Tree. The Census Tree is a new project that combines family history and economics to open up new research opportunities.

Joseph Price, Professor of Economics and Director of the BYU Record Linking Lab, has been working alongside Kasey Buckles, Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame to ensure The Census Tree's successful launch in July. Thanks to their efforts, and those of Ph.D. students from Notre Dame and Cornell as well as student researchers at the BYU Record Linking Lab, their extensive database of census records, which includes over 700 million links for individuals and decades of sources, is now available online.

"I fell in love with family history about seven years ago," says Price, adding, "I discovered that I could combine my love for family history with economic research and created the Record Linking Lab to make this possible. We are trying to develop tools that will help gather together the family tree for humanity." It was those developments that led to the creation of The Census Tree to further link individuals, especially those who tend to be underrepresented in data: women and minority groups.

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Because of name changes for women and often unknown birthplaces for minorities, studies seeking to follow individuals over time have primarily focused on white men. The Census Tree's "crosswalk" connections, however, make it easier to represent changes over time for those who were often overlooked by the data previously and to fully account for their experiences, something Price calls, "a huge leap forward."

Beyond academic research, individuals can find meaning searching for their own family history using The Census Tree as well. "My wife's maiden name is Grossnickle, which is a pretty unique name," recalls Price. Using his Census Tree, Price has been able to find and link together all of the people that have this surname or its variants on the Family Tree at He shared, "It has been really meaningful to see all of the people my children are related to and make sure that none of the Grossnickles get missed."

Anyone can now access more information about their own family or find ways to help link others to a tree for future researchers to use by going to the quick start guide found on The Census Tree's website. Record hints from this research linking data to individuals in the FamilySearch family tree can also be accessed through the BYU Record Linking Lab.