The following news release was received from Paul Nauta at FamilySearch on February 2. I looks like I just lost it in my mailbox – thus it’s not being posted until nearly a week later. Sorry…

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—FamilySearch International, the University of Tromsø, and DIS-Norge announced today a joint initiative to transcribe the 1875 Norway Census for free online access. It is the only Norway census that has not been indexed and the first to be tackled as a global, Internet-based effort. Volunteers who can read Norwegian are being sought to complete the project at www.familysearch.org. (Go to FamilySearch.org, then click Index Records, and then click Volunteer.)

The 1875 Norway Census is valuable to researchers because it was the last national census taken just before the great Norwegian immigration period that started in 1878. Researchers will not have to wait much longer for convenient, online access to the historic census. FamilySearch digitized the census images and is using its Web-based transcription tool and volunteers to create the automated index. The University of Tromsø and DIS-Norge are sponsoring the project, but many more online volunteers are needed to transcribe the 1.6 million individuals found in the tens of thousands of census sheets.

Although FamilySearch has done other major international indexing projects, this is the first one for Norway. “The biggest challenge is the Norwegian handwriting and names,” said Jeff Svare, collection management specialist. “Most of FamilySearch’s current volunteers are not skilled at reading Norwegian names or handwriting. Native Norwegian volunteers would be much more effective and efficient at transcribing the required information from the census sheets,” concluded Svare.

Volunteering is simple. Volunteers with Internet access register online at FamilySearchIndexing.org. Once they have downloaded the transcription software, there is an optional, but very helpful, tutorial. They then select the Norway 1875 Census project, and a digital image of a census page will appear. The volunteers then enter the highlighted information they see on their computer screen. That information is saved and compiled online in an index that will be made freely available to the public. Each batch should take about 30 minutes.

Indexers do not need to worry about their skill level at reading censuses. Each census page is transcribed by two different indexers. Any discrepancies between the two entries will be arbitrated by a third indexer. The result is a highly accurate, free index of tremendous value to family history enthusiasts. The more online volunteers that help, the quicker the free census index will be available online for all to enjoy and benefit from.

There are other hidden benefits to volunteering. Volunteers become familiar with historical documents, the valuable stories they can conceal, and their usefulness and application to genealogical research.

The FamilySearch Records Access program has already generated over 500 million names and images through its volunteer initiatives. The collections can be searched for free at FamilySearch.org. (Go to FamilySearch.org, then click Search Records, and then click Record Search pilot.)

Gunnar Thorvaldson, professor of history and manager of research for the Norwegian Historical Data Centre at the University of Tromsø, said, “The University welcomes the cooperation with the FamilySearch Center to extend our sample of computerized entries from the 1875 census for Norway. This will significantly increase the potential use of the first high quality Norwegian census both in statistical and ancestry-related research.”

“We are happy to be able to assist FamilySearch in indexing the 1875 Norway Census,” said Torill Johnsen, president of DIS-Norge. “Lots of important genealogical information has limited access because it is still only available on paper in archives and libraries. Online access to those reliable sources makes it available for genealogists from their own computer when they want it. Active involvement from volunteers will hasten the completion of the 1875 Norway Census and increase the number of digitally accessible sources,” added Johnsen.

FamilySearch manages the largest collection of genealogical records worldwide. In 2007 it announced plans to begin digitizing and indexing its collection for broader, more economic online access—starting with popular collections like the U.S., Canada, and U.K. censuses. FamilySearch has created free online indexes to date for the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 U.S. Censuses. FamilySearch is working with The Generations Network to provide enhanced, free indexes for the remaining U.S. censuses.