The Socface project brings together archivists, demographers, economists, historians, and computer scientists to develop technologies for the large-scale processing of huge series of historical documents. Based on automated handwriting recognition, the project aims at analyzing all nominal census lists from 1836 to 1936 (20 censuses). This will produce a database of all individuals who lived in France between 1836 and 1936. This database will be used to analyze social change over the long term, thus considerably improving our understanding of French economic and social structures. The other major impact of Socface will be the access to the nominal lists for the general public: the information available in the nominal lists will be disseminated in Open Access, allowing anyone to browse hundreds of millions of records.