Census Information

    The purpose of this page is to give some general information about the various census.

     Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution required that an enumeration of the people be made. The U.S. Government has taken a nationwide census every ten years since 1790.

     The population schedules (census) are successive snapshots of where our families lived at particular periods in the past. Since 1850, they suggest dates and places of birth, relationships, family origins, changes in residence, schooling occupations, economic and citizenship statues, etc.

     “Is census information reliable?” In most cases, yes. However, for various reason the census contains erroneous data. Why? Many people for one reason or the other didn’t trust the government’s motives. Individuals worried their answers might be used against them, especially issues related to taxation, military service, and immigration. People have refused to give information, others have lied. Also individuals were missed, not counted. In some cases, people were counted twice.

     Census information is available from the followings sources:

  • The National Archives (NARA)
  • The public library (depending on size and location)
  • On-line at various genealogy sites, usually by subscription
  • Distributors of CD-ROMS
  • Books (Early censuses)

     At the present time, the 1790-1940 census information is available to genealogists, with the exception of the 1890 census data that were lost in a fire. Detailed census information cannot be released for viewing until 72 years after that particular census is taken. That’s why the the 1940 census is the last one released. The 1950 census will be released in 2022.

     Whenever possible work with indexed census information. It’s very time consuming and difficult to search through microfilm rolls of data blindly looking for information. Unfortunately, you can’t always keep from doing this.

     Besides the Federal Population Census there were some non-population schedules:

  • Agriculture
  • Defective, Dependent, Delinqunt (DDD)
  • Products of Industry and Manufacturer
  • Mortality
  • Social Statistics
  • Veterans

     On top of that, various states took a state census and there were sometimes tax lists and voter eligibility lists.

     There is a cornucopia of information available, just waiting to be tapped.



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