The 1790 project is a large cooperative effort to gather the data on the 70 million people who died in the United States from 1790-1930. It is sponsored by The Progeny Society and its data is hosted on the ProgenyLink.com website. The Progeny Society primarily oversees this project by providing education and training for those who wish to participate.
Completing The 1790 Project might sound unrealistic (it first did to me!), but when you look at a few statistics, it’s quite the opposite.
While 70 million is a large number, it is important to realize how many of us there are out there available to do the work. For example, there are an estimated 4 million genealogists in the United States today. If 4 million people all coordinated, they would only need to do 18 names a piece to complete the project! To use a more realistic number, if you had 300,000 researchers working together, they would only need to do 234 names.
To make this example work, each of these researchers would need to do unique names. In other words, none of us could be doing the same research as someone else. We would need a way to divvy up this 70 million person “pie” if you will. That is why The Progeny Society uses The Huff Method, which introduces the very techniques necessary to prevent the duplication of each others research.
Whatever the number of participants ends up being, we want to stress that it is entirely feasible to do a project of this type. Furthermore, we would like to remind everyone that much of the research has already been performed and it simply needs to be cleaned up and input into our centralized database.
Ok, so it’s feasible, but how are you going to pull it off exactly?
The first steps in completing the 1790 project would be to create a computer database capable of handling millions of names, a website for people to use to input the information, and a way to divvy up the 70 million names. The Progeny Society has spent years developing ProgenyLink.com and refining the process to make the 1790 Project possible. It is proud to say that this part of the project is now complete!
Why 1790 to 1930?
1790 is selected as the starting year for this project because it provides researchers a manageable amount of research to perform and also because it coincides with the start modern record keeping. For example, 1790 is the year of the first United States Federal Census and is when the United States constitution was ratified.
1930 is selected as the “end” year because many public records (such as census records) are not made available to the public until after 72 years, thus making the 1930 census the most recent “publicly available” census.
So how do you divvy up the 70 million names?
The quickest way to answer this question is to say that each researcher will be working on different surname lines. For example, if I chose to work on the Angus Sands line (born 1812 in Georgia) I would enter him on the surname group registry and commit to working only on his approximately 100 or so same-surname descendants.
When I have completed this Sands line, I have contributed a very small, but important, piece of the 70 million person pie. Now imagine if we had thousands of people doing this exact process, eventually, we would have it done!
Furthermore, the list of registered surnames will be available to all who join, so that everyone participating in the project can see what other names have or have not been registered. This way, we can ensure that all of us would be working on separate pieces of the pie!
Wait, did you say descendants? What is the point of using descendancy research?
Some may wonder why descendancy research is the research method of the project, when pedigree research (starting with yourself and going back) is the most common method today. There are a few reasons, the most important of which is actually an organizational issue.
For example, everyone simultaneously performing The Huff Method style of descendancy research is the only way to ensure that users are not doing the work of someone else. It all has to do with registering the surname group and individual you wish to start with (we call this starting individual a “capstone ancestor”).
If I performed pedigree research, every generation that I go back, I am venturing into different surnames. How would another user know what surnames you were committing to work on? Pedigree research is incompatible with our project then, because it does not provide for a proper distribution of work that has boundaries.
Aside from this most important point, there are other reasons why descendancy research has its advantages. When doing pedigree research, by nature you are researching only those individuals that had offspring. Descendancy research seeks to find every individual regardless of whether or not they had children. Descendancy research also has some inherent efficiencies. For example, many source documents, such as census records, are laid out in a descendancy format. Entering in all of the individuals of a family at the same time s much faster than doing in separately.
Alright, I’m in! How do I participate?
To participate in the 1790 project, go to ProgenyLink.com and create your free account. From there, you will register the surname group (or groups) that are of interest to you and begin your research!