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Spreadsheet Templates for
Transcribing Census Data

Download Templates


Keep the Column
Headings in View

Make a Backup

Where to get Spreadsheet Templates

Spreadsheet templates are available for download.

For IBM PCs:        
Excel or MSWorks template-files for the census years 
            1790 through 1940 (except for the 1890-Population Schedule)
               1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules 
               1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 Mortality Schedules
               1890 Veteran's Schedule
               1900 and 1910 Indian Population Schedules

Excel template-files for the "Linked Index" transcription
(for use when there are "free" scanned image files of the census microfilm on the Internet, and each name in the finished index will be linked to the scanned image file)
               1790-1840 Index
               1850 Index
               1860-1870 Index
               1880 Index
               1900-1930 Index

If you are transcribing a census not mentioned above, contact the Census Project State Assignment Coordinator for the state you are doing or the Census Project's Template Coordinator to obtain the spreadsheet template-file you need. The Template Coordinator will need to know the spreadsheet software that you have, the census year, census schedule, the state and county so the proper template can be emailed to you.  If you have a MAC with an older operating system that cannot open Excel templates, let the Template Coordinator know whether you have Excel, Clarisworks or Appleworks and which version number.

Template Information

Using a template to transcribe your census:

The spreadsheet template is really just a spreadsheet file that has a fill-in block to identify the specific census (CommonINFO), and a header-row with a brief description for each column that gets transcribed in this specific census. Since the questions asked on the census differ from census-year to census-year and for the special census schedules -- there are separate template-files for each census-year and also for the special census schedules. You MUST use the correct census template-file for the census-year or special census you are transcribing because the columns vary for each census.  

On the Excel template-files there are four separate worksheets: The first worksheet [CommonINFO] has a fill-in block to identify the census and an area where you can type comments about the entire file should you have something to comment about. The second worksheet [Census Year] is for typing the census data. There are "comments" in the header row with tips about the information that gets typed in the cells for that column when you are at the top of the file and hover the mouse over a commented cell, you will see the tip. The third worksheet [Help] has census project URLs and email addresses. The fourth worksheet [Waivers] has waivers that you can sign by typing your name if you are in agreement with the waivers.

On the MSWorks template-files, since MSWorks does not have the ability of multiple worksheets, the CommonINFO fill-in block, the census project URLs and email addresses, and the waivers are on the top right of the file after the REMARKS column.

Excel's Auto-Complete Feature:

Excel's Auto-Complete Feature is defaulted to be turned "on". With this feature "on", if the first few characters that you type in a cell match an existing entry in that column, Microsoft Excel fills in the remaining characters for you. This feature is really great for the BIRTHPLACE column because you only have to type a few letters and the rest will automatically appear -- but it is not so great in the FIRST-NAME column because it will add middle initials or endings of a name that you've previously typed in that column and if you don't notice that it's doing this, the name is incorrectly entered. It would be great if you could set Excel's options so this feature could be turned on for some of the columns and off for the rest of the columns, but alas, it can only be turned ON or turned OFF for all the columns.

To Turn AutoComplete ON or OFF:  On the TOOLS menu, click "Options", and then click the [Edit] tab to bring it to the front. On the "Edit" tab -- you can toggle the feature ON or OFF by selecting it to add or remove the mark in the check-box.

Page Numbers:

If there are stamped pages numbers, type the stamped number in the PAGE# column.  Sometimes only every other page has the stamped number, and in this case add an "a" immediately following the page number for the stamped page.  Then on the following unstamped page, use the same page number as the previous stamped page except add a "b" immediately following the page number.

If the page has a handwritten page number in addition to the stamped page number -- for the 1880 and up census years there is a column in the template for the 2nd-PAGE# / SHEET#. For the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census years, the handwritten page number can be added in the REFERENCE column. For the 1790-1840 census years, sometimes there is more than one page number on the pages and if you feel the 2nd page number will be useful for the Researchers, you can insert an additional column in your template-file for the 2nd page number.

General Information:

  1. All the information is to be entered exactly as recorded by the enumerator, except when the enumerator used ditto, ditto marks, or the word "do" as shorthand for duplicating the information from above.  In this case, please enter the information that is being dittoed.   

  2. Questionable letters/numbers should be indicated with an asterisk or ?.

  3. The names should be typed exactly as they are written on the microfilm.  Do not abbreviate if the enumerator wrote out the entire name.  If a name was abbreviated, and the final letter is a little raised, add a single quote in place of the omitted letters in the name.  Example: Tho with a raised s  -  you would type   Tho's

  4. Titles such as Doctor, Reverend, Junior, and Senior (or their abbreviations) should be placed after the given-name in the FIRST NAME field.

  5. The ages for the infants should be entered just as the enumerator wrote them.  If he wrote a fraction, enter the fraction.  If the older template you are using changes the fraction to something else, simply type a single quote immediately before the fraction, such as   '6/12    If the enumerator wrote wks, mos. or months after the number of months, then type that same information.  

  6. Some of the columns on your census microfilmed page are the questions that were on the census and are answered with a mark that looks like a forward slash  / .  Type an X instead of a forward slash / 

  7. The REMARKS field is for you to type any comment you feel is necessary for that line.  If the comment you want to make is too long for a REMARKS field, you can type your information in a separate file or on the CommonINFO worksheet (in Excel) and reference the page and line number so the researchers will know what line you are referring to.  When you submit your census file to the Census Project, you can include the extra comments file at that same time. 

  8. You can widen the columns as needed to allow more room for the information you are typing, however, if you prefer keeping the columns narrow so you can see more columns at the same time, the information you type is there even if you can't see it with a narrower width on the column and it will not get missed when the file is converted to the TEXT type file that gets placed online.  

Keep the Column Headings in View

The newer template-files have the header-rows frozen in place, and if using an older spreadsheet template-file that does not, you can freeze the column headings of the first page, and several of the left columns.  The frozen areas will remain visible on the screen while the rest of the information scrolls underneath and off the screen.  It is much easier to type the census information when you can see the column header and row name for the line you are typing.

If you have an older template, please consider downloading a newer template which already has the header-rows frozen in place.

To freeze the header-row on your older template, after your spreadsheet template is on the screen:

      To freeze the top horizontal header rows, 
                select the row below where you want the split to occur.
      To freeze the left vertical columns, 
                select the column to the right of where you want the split to occur.
      To freeze both the horizontal headers, and the vertical columns 
                click the cell below and to the right of where you want the split.

Note: If you move the top census information block off the top of the screen before you do the next part, it will leave more screen room for the rows you are entering.  To do this, use the horizontal scroll bar and the up/down triangle pointer buttons at the top and bottom of the scroll bar and scroll so that you see only the column header at the top of the screen and not the 6 or 7 rows that contain the census info.


      On the menu-bar, click "Window".
      On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Freeze Panes". 

      Later if you want to undo the frozen panes:
      On the menu-bar, click "Window".
      On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Unfreeze Panes".


      On the menu-bar, click "Format"
      On the "Format" drop-down list, click "Freeze Titles".

      Later if you want to undo the frozen titles:
      On the menu-bar, click "Format"
      On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Unfreeze Titles".

Make a Backup Copy of your Spreadsheet File

You put a lot of hard work and time into typing the census information into your spreadsheet file, and you should get into the habit of making a backup copy after you are done typing for the day.   

After you save the transcribed file on your hard drive, make a backup copy by saving the same file to an A: diskette.  If your spreadsheet file has grown too large to save it on a single diskette, you might consider breaking the large census down into smaller parts such as making a separate file for each Enumeration District, township or division.  If the file is still too large for a single diskette, consider getting a zip-type software so you can zip the large file to compress its size. 

If your newer PC does not have a diskette drive, you can copy the file to a rewriteable CD (CD-RW), or if you have an alternate web-email address -- email the file to that web account for a temporary backup.

You can email a backup copy of your file to the census project's File-Manager at FileManager@US-Census.org. Please specify in the email with the attachment that the attached file is for temporary BACKUP so that it gets held rather than processed and placed online.


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Information updated on November 25, 2012