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Ancestry® to Apply Handwriting Recognition Artificial Intelligence to Create a Searchable Index of the 1950 U.S. Census

Access to this highly anticipated census collection will be available to search 
sooner than any previous census collection


Using new, proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) handwriting recognition technology, Ancestry® today announced it will deliver a searchable index of the 1950 U.S. Census to customers faster than ever before.   

The 1950 U.S. Census is set to be released to the public in early April. With handwriting recognition technology, what previously took years to index, now will only take weeks. Ancestry anticipates the indexing of the 1950 Census to be completed and available on this summer, with states released in real time upon completion. 

Corporate Genealogist Crista Cowan explains the value of census records in powering meaningful discoveries saying, “The 1950 U.S. Census contains the details of names, ages, birthplaces, residences, and relationships of more than 150 million people. This glimpse into American households at a critical time in U.S. history will help people discover even more about the effects the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the Baby Boom had on their families. Many of our customers will see themselves, parents or grandparents' names in this census for the first time, which will bring even more family stories to life.”

Cutting-Edge Technology to Power Discoveries

Ancestry developed machine learning algorithms to power our proprietary AI handwriting recognition technology. Ancestry created AI software that reads handwriting from historical documents and transcribes the data, enabling our community to easily and quickly search historical records. The technology uses a unique and iterative blend of machine and human evaluation which is based on an Ancestry-developed confidence score framework.  
Given the unique nature of the 1950 U.S. Census and the unavailability of images in advance, Ancestry used a novel approach to simulate sample document images to ensure it is representative of anticipated variation in aged, inconsistent or damaged historical documents that may be encountered in order to train the AI. Employees recreated full-size census forms in a variety of handwriting styles before intentionally damaging some of these forms by ripping, burning, and pouring liquid on the forms in order to simulate the wear and tear that historical documents go through over time. Ancestry then re-scanned these forms, using them in our sample set to ensure our unique algorithms are prepared to support the anticipated condition of these 70-year-old historical documents. 



Calling All Family History Buffs
Ancestry and FamilySearch volunteers are partnering to evaluate the handwriting recognition extraction and ensure a complete and accurate index. Those interested in volunteering to help should visit to learn more.  

Keep an eye out for additional details around the 1950s U.S. Census and the AI handwriting recognition technology at RootsTech 2022. To register, go to


Blog Post Author: Ancestry TeamHomepage Position: 

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