Lesson 13: Using Federal Census Records
Census -1- Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Background Information about the Federal Census
Census -2- Privacy
Why use the Census?
How to use Census Records
Where to Start
Census -3- What You Need to Start
Utilizing the Information
The 20/20 Rule
After You Get the Record, What Do You Do With It?
Census -4- Where to Find Census Records
What to Extract
Census -5- What to Watch Out For (Pitfalls)
U.S. Federal Census - Glitches
Census -6- Census Takers
Can’t Find Them?
Census -7- Census Day
Other Important Information
Census -8- Colonial, Territorial, and State Census Records
Census -9- Schedules
Census -10- 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 Census
Census -11- Census Information Summary 1820 to 1940
Census -12- Earlier Censuses and Printed Indexes
Locating the Entry
Census -13- U.S. Federal Census Soundex
How to use the Soundex
Census -14- Subsequent Rules
Census -15- To search for a Particular Surname.
Census -16- Soundexed Censuses
USING CENSUS RECORDS
Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources
Primary Source is one which had its origin with someone directly involved with the event
being reported near the time of the event. Examples are: a birth certificate, the death
information on a death certificate, a marriage certificate, and some of the information
on a census return. The birth information on a death certificate isn't primary because
it is being recorded many years after the birth, quite probably by someone who wasn't
present at the birth. The residence of a person is about the only primary source on a
census return because the ages, birth places and other dates are all being recorded long
after they happened (and could have been given to the census taker by the neighbor if
the family didn't happen to be at home!).
Secondary source is everything else and should be used as clues. An obituary is a
secondary source. Except for the death date and funeral information, all the information
is given by someone who was not present when the event happened.
A tombstone presents a different type of source! It's obvious that the birth date is
a secondary source, but if it's a new stone with an old death date (meaning the stone
wasn't erected at the time of the death), it is definitely a secondary source.
If you come up with two or three dates for a person's birth consider when each was
recorded and choose the one that was recorded closest to the time of the birth. This
isn't a 100% guarantee that it's right, but the odds are better that it is.
In law another name for primary evidence is "best evidence". The best evidence
available must be considered before judgment is made. A book on this subject is
"Genealogical Evidence" by Noel C. Stevenson (Laguna Hills: Aegean Press, 1989).
The author is a lawyer and a genealogist.
Background Information about the Federal Census
Censuses are taken:
• 1) for taxes
• 2) for apportioning the seats of the US House of Representatives.
• 3) originally (1790) to provide information on men eligible for the military.
We had only recently gained our independence from England and the men of the day
knew it was important to assemble a viable military, if the need arose.
In 1790 the US became the first country in the world to call for a regularly held
census. George Washington signed the papers making this act a law in 1790.
The Constitution directs that there will be "an enumeration of inhabitants",
and nothing more. However, the Census has evolved and now we can learn much more
than just the number of people who live in our country
In 1790, the U.S. population was 3,231,533. Not including slaves or untaxed Indians.
Free Persons - Indians living on treaty land were not taxed and did not vote.
Indians who lived within the white population were taxed, voted, and were considered
a “free person.”
All Other Persons - Slaves counted as 3/5 of a person when determining
Congressional Representation. This was to off-set the large slave population in
the Southern States. (In 1790 in SC 43% of the population was slaves, in CT it was 1.1%)
The federal census is taken every 10 years, in the year ending with zero. To 1990,
the Federal Census has been taken 21 times. Individual states, however, often took
their own Census in some of the years between the federal enumeration. These can
be a valuable source, especially if you are looking for someone who died betwen
censuses. The state census was taken mainly for the purpose of taxation.
Censuses are taken by county and census subdivisions, regardless of how the state or
territory is organized. Historically, there was no requirement for a specific person
in the household, or even any person living in the household, to give the information.
The law states that the census shall remain private for 72 years. This is
to encourage truthful answers and accurate information. Not much of a negative
consequence could happen after 72 years. Most of those listed would be gone.
Because of the 72 year law, the latest Census available to the public is the one
taken in 1920.
The process of microfilming and printing takes time, considering the huge
volume of documents. Due to the 72 year restriction, no one can look at the
individual data for that period of time. Thus, the compiling and microfilming
only begins after 72 years. It usually takes at least two additional years to
get the work finished and ready for distribution to the public.
WHY THE CENSUS
FEDERAL CENSUS RECORDS are perhaps the most-used record in American
family history research, for a very good reason: no other record consistently
reports the structure of virtually every family in the United States,
regardless of race, creed, economic status, location, or citizenship.
Furthermore, a census may be the only record in which a family can be located,
whether because they owned no land, or because the records of the county in
which they lived have been destroyed.
The purpose of obtaining and using census records is to develop the
composition of the famiLY. You can use census records to find out:
Where your family was in any ten-year span.
Other information at that location (birth, marriage, death).
Locate lost and found children, siblings, parents, and grandparents.
To fill in the blanks on your family group records and pedigree charts.
The United States Census is an extremely valuable tool in genealogy research.
Several censuses give not only names, ages and birthplaces, but also state the
relationship of people within a household. Depending on the questions asked
in that particular census, you may also learn when your ancestors came to the
U.S., if and when they were naturalized, how many children a woman gave birth
to and other vital pieces of information.
In the U.S., a census has been taken every 10 years from 1790 through 1990.
All censuses taken after 1920 are still confidential and the information they
contain is not open to the public. The census from 1790 through 1840 only
named the head of the household and the numbers of people in categories -
3 males over 16, 2 males under 16, etc. The census from 1850 through 1920
lists each member of the household and usually gives the relationship to t
he head of the house. It also gives age (later years give birth month and
year) and place of birth (usually just the state or foreign country). The
1890 census was almost totally destroyed by fire so there is a 20 year gap
between 1880 and 1900.
HOW TO USE CENSUS RECORDS
WHERE TO START?
Start with yourself and work backwards generation by generation.
Write down what you already know. With this information in hand, you can
start your journey through census records. Too often a new researcher will
want to start with great-grandfather because he did something outstanding
in his lifetime. Recording information about yourself and each generation
allows you to gather information as you progress, and in the long run you
will find out even more about great-grandfather
A beginning genealogist will probably have information on at least
some relatives who were alive in 1920.. Start with the 1920 census and
work back as more names are found and linked. The more recent the record,
the more information. Don't overlook any possibilities! Always look for
all pertinent surnames in each census record you check.
People are enumerated in a census by year, then state, then county,
then enumeration district. You must know the state to begin a search.
Within the 1850-1920 period, unless you know a fairly exact location,
the most important consideration is the existence of an index.
WHAT YOU NEED TO START
1) Pedigree Charts and Family Group Records (include siblings' records)
2) Search area and year (ex., Daviess County, Missouri, 1870)
3) Something on which to document the census record (forms, copies)
4) A logical search pattern (ex., birth, marriage, death)
5) Soundex coding for surnames (1880-1920)
UTILIZING THE INFORMATION
The census gives a lot of information and you should try to find your
ancestors in as many censuses as possible. If you have the name of your
great-grandfather, but nothing else except the names of all his children,
try to locate as many children as possible in census returns. You may find
him living with a married child in later returns. From this you will know
where he was born and approximately when.
Take note of the names near your ancestor's. If you find a 35 year
old man and family and two or three households away, a 65 year old man of
the same surname with his 60 year old wife, there is a good possibility
they are related. If you are looking for the parents of the younger man,
it would be worthwhile checking the property and probate records of the
older man and looking for an obituary for him. Even if you find your ancestor
as a 13 year old in a census, you should look back to the previous census
where he was 3. Sometimes people would adopt a nickname or middle name at
an early age and use that exclusively throughout life.
If you were not able to find a birth record for Hank Smith, you may
find that as a 2 or 3 year old child he was listed as Charles Henry Smith.
This indicates that the birth was probably registered as Charles and you
won't ever find a record for Hank. Looking at as many returns as possible
may also give you a pattern of migration. The oldest children might be born
in Pennsylvania, the second 2 in Ohio and the younger ones in Indiana.
THE 20/20 RULE
When you find your ancestor in the census, make note of the 20 families
before and the 20 after them on the census. The concept is that people moved
in packs. They left an area with their neighbors and family branches to start
a ready made community in a new area.
Then, when you want to find them on the census before that one, scan
the 41 families for the most unusual names...i.e. "Oliver Twiddledee" and look
for Oliver in the previous census. More than likely, you will find your "John
Smith" living in the same area. Don't forget to be on the lookout for surnames
connected by marriage. (Your grandmother's sister probably married and has a
AFTER YOU GET THE RECORD, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT?
• Compare the information given with what you already have.
• Write down the discrepancies in your notes.
• Write down the citation source in your notes for each person listed in citation.
• Look at the new information. It should give you new areas of where to
look for more information.
• Plan your next attack, genealogy is like a chess game, it plays to have a strategy
WHERE TO FIND CENSUS RECORDS
1. LDS FHC - A complete selection of Federal and State Census records
are available on loan from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City
through your local Family History Center (operated by the Church of Jesus
Christ Latter Day Saints). Although the microfilm is housed primarily in
the main library in Utah, Family History Centers are housed in many churches
all over the United States and people of all faiths are welcome to use the
vast collection of genealogical materials collected by the church. The size
and locality of the records housed at each FHC varies. If the microfilm you
need is not on the premises, it can be rented for a nominal fee from the
library in Utah. Workers at the library will assist you in the process.
Some branch libraries can get them on loan from the Federal Archives and
Record Center also.
2. National Archives - All U.S. censuses are available at the 11
offices of the National Archives. In Seattle, the Federal Archives Center
is at Sand Point The Federal Archives and Record Center makes available
all federal Census records as well as many other records housed in the National
Archives. You can request a list of available records. In addition, you can
visit the National Archives in Washington, DC or write to the following
address and request form NATF-82:
Reference Services Branch (NNIR),
National Archives and Record Service,
8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, DC 20408
3. Public Library - Public libraries also keep census records. They
can be found in books as well as on microfilm. Many states have indexes for
each census year. These records can be viewed by the public and are usual
kept in the "Local History" or "Genealogy" section of the library Few, if
any, house records for the entire country. Generally, in-house records are
indigenous to the area. These libraries often have a way to order additional
microfilm from an outside source for a nominal fee.
4. Commercial Purchase of Census Films - (i.e. AGLL) There are several
companies that make Census records available to rent or purchase.
Advertisements for these sources can be found in most genealogical
5. Internet - Don’t expect to find actual records (if you do, you
will be pleasantly surprised), but they do have the microfilm catalogs index,
where you can find what roll you need to look at.
WHAT TO EXTRACT
There are three ways to record Census Information.
Citation: Write it down. Be sure to include theYear, state,
county, township, post office, roll #, ED#, page #, family #, line #,
enumeration date, and research date. The objective is to list your source
so others can easily find it.
Forms: If you are using a specific year form, just fill in the blanks
(adding other information). Pay special attention to the surrounding households.
If you are using a generic form, write down the information in the order you find
it on the record. There are blank census forms available at LDS Family History
Centers and many county libraries. (Some publications have them for sale also)
This will give you a permanent addition to your files, which you can review at
any time in the future to refresh your memory. Not all locations will have copying
equipment so it's good to be prepared with blank forms.
Copy: No mistakes of writing things down, and you can get the surrounding
households on the full sheet.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR (PITFALLS)
• Don't limit your search to direct ancestors only. Find out about
their siblings and their families.
• Printed indexes don't always list every head of household. Sometimes
whole counties are missing in some indexes.
• Don’t Assume Anything!
• Limiting your search to just the one county and not looking at the
• Location names and boundary changes.
• Different spellings of surnames (ex., Samuel Fitzgerald listed under
G for GERALD, Fitz Samuel.)
U.S. FEDERAL CENSUS - GLITCHES
Keep in mind how the census was taken and how the indexes were created.
It was a very inexact science! Because of all of the potential human errors,
it is important to check as many censuses as possible.
Limitations of the Census Schedules
a. No Federal census was taken before 1790 in the U.S.
b. The earlier the census, the fewer questions were asked. The first
one only asked 7 questions. Records before 1850 (1790-1840) only listed head
of household, and the oldest person listed is not always the head.
a. Some families were missed, due to the length of time it took
to take the census, or people were away
visiting relatives, or some families lived in multi-dwelling
units and were overlooked, etc.
b. Parts of the censuses were lost or destroyed.
3. Indifferent enumerators
a. Many census takers were poorly trained or didn't
take their responsibility seriously.
b. Instructions were not followed (i.e. initials
only, no birth places listed, etc.)
c. The census taker took the information orally.
d. He was probably in a hurry,
e. Unfamiliar abbreviations and ditto marks (i.e. Conn., Ct., Cn., Cnct.
were all used for Connecticut).
f. If adults were not home enumerator got information from small children
or neighbors or guessed the answers himself.
g. Padded population.
4. Incorrect information given by family members:
a. memory might be poor (most people did not read or write)
b. lack of understanding the question., (ex., age, name, place of birth,
relationship to head, left outfamily members, other people or children
listed as family.
c. Many of the foreign immigrants had heavy accents and most families were large.
d. He didn't always ask how to spell a name - and many people were illiterate.
The Polish letters prz are pronounced something like "pzsh" and an
enumerator who didn't speak Polish might transcribe
them as psz or pzsh which means they will never turn up under
the expected Soundex code.Many letters can sound alike - G and K, C
and K, C and S, F and S, GR can become CR, etc.
5. Place of residence must be known
a. If census has not been indexed then at least the county must be
known to start a search.
b. If your ancestor lived in a large city, you will have to know which
part of the city or "ward" he lived in, in order to search the census.
6. Quality of materials available
a. The quality of microfilm can be poor, making copy too dark or too
small or otherwise unreadable. (this may be due to poor photography, double
papers or pages filmed, making writing too small,etc.).Also filmer might miss
a page by accidentally turning 2 pages.
b. Poor quality of paper and/or ink, as well as handwriting.
Who were they? Everyday people like you and me. Some were young,
some old. In the earlier censuses, they were usually men on horseback,
carrying their clipboards with blank census sheets ready to be filled with
information. They may have been school teachers on summer break or farmers
trying to supplement their income. They came from all walks of life.
They all knew how to read and write and they usually lived in the area they enumerated.
The government paid them to go door to door with the goal of
getting a head count of all people living in the United States. Then,
as today, some were excellent workers, producing accurate, legible records.
They took pains to get all pertinent information and record it on their
papers. Others, however, were mainly interested in payday and did less
than an admirable job.
The census taker could walk many different paths to cover his
territory There was no instruction on the direction he should take,
only that he must cover the entire territory assigned to him. People
who live on adjoining property might be listed several pages apart,
depending on the route taken by the enumerator. In farm land and early
times, the paths of the census takers often meandered in strange patterns.
Possible paths of a census taker
Workers gathering records in cities usually followed some sort of pattern,
but even so, people whose backyards were separated only by a picket fence
might be found recorded many pages apart, depending on the route walked
by the census taker.
The census taker usually interviewed at least one person in the
household, but if no one was home and the farm was a long way from his
home, the enumerator may have obtained the information from a neighbor.
In any case, the person supplying the data may not have known the facts.
The neighbor may not have known the children's ages or birthplaces or a
husband may not have known his mother-in- law's place of birth. Many,
many people are recorded as being born in the wrong state. Anyone may
assume a person was born in the U.S. because he or she has no accent
when actually the individual may have been born in a foreign country
and come to the U.S. as an infant or young child. When an individual
was asked when he came to the U.S., he probably searched his memory
and said "oh, about 1883". He didn't consult records and the actual
year may have been 1887. They probably recited their children's names
rather quickly and son Georgie may have turned into daughter Georgia.
Many people could be recorded as the wrong sex if they didn't have
traditional names. A child who had gone to stay with a relative for
a month, perhaps to help out with a new baby might be counted twice
- or not at all. Because of all these potential human errors, it is
important to check as many censuses as possible.
CAN’T FIND THEM?
If you cannot find your person in an index and you feel
reasonably confident that he should be there, or if you have no
other leads, do not hesitate to check the whole county if it is
a rural area. A county often takes about one reel and can be
done in 2-3 hours.
If you are researching a name that is not extremely common
such as Jones, Smith or Brown, it might be worthwhile noting everyone
with the surname you are looking for - at least the name of the head
of household and wife, ages and page number. Then you will not have
to go back if you find your family in that county. If you are looking
in a large city, it is very difficult to check the entire city. You
should use city directories and street indexes to try to narrow the
area. If the people belonged to one ethnic group, a history of the
city will tell you what areas which nationalities settled in.
Once you have checked all census returns back through 1850,
the census becomes less valuable but still can provide evidence. If
you know your ancestor was born in 1821 and a family of the right
name in the 1830 census has a 10 year old male, you know that he
may belong to this family. If the family only consists of people
over the age of 16, then it is unlikely that the head of this
household is his father. Slaves were recorded by numbers, usually
without names, and Native American (Indian) censuses are a separate
set of records.
Congress specifies a “census day” and the time allowed to
take the census. The census taker was to count the people who lived
in each house as of the “census day.” which may include anyone who
died, or exclude any child born after, the “census day.” Close
analysis is imperative here. (i.e. the census days for 1820 and
1830 are not exactly 10 years apart. There is a 2 month difference.
So, if a person was born between June 1, 1820 and August 7, 1820 the
child would appear in 1820 as “under 5” and in 1830 as “under 10”
rather than “of 10 and under 16,” because he would not yet be 10.
CENSUS YEAR CENSUS DAY TIME ALLOWED
1790 2 Aug 1790 9 Months
1800 4 Aug 1800 9 Months
1810 6 Aug 1810 10 Months
1820 7 Aug 1820 13 Months
1830 1 June 1830 12 Months
1840 1 June 1840 18 Months
1850 1 June 1850 5 Months
1860 1 June 1860 5 Months
1870 1 June 1870 5 Months
1880 1 June 1880 1 Month
1890 1 June 1890 1 Month
1900 1 June 1900 1 Month
1910 15 Apr 1910 1 Month
1920 1 Jan 1920 1 Month
1. 1790 census - earliest one taken. Only heads of families named, parts missing.
2. 1800, 1810, 1820 - parts missing. Use tax lists to fill in.
3. 1840 census - shows Revolutionary War pensioners and ages
4. 1850 census - first census naming everyone living in family, and the place of birth.
5. 1870 census - shows details of parentage - if of foreign birth
6. 1880 census - first showing relationship; birthplace of parents, soundex made.
7. 1890 census - 99% destroyed by fire. Use Veterans Schedules, State Census, City Directories to fill in.
8. 1910 census - only 21 states soundexed
9. 1920 census - most recent census available for research
10. May be State census in years between Federal censuses.
11. Mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870 & 1880 census.
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Other records to use with or instead of census records: Tax rolls,
land records, court records, road records, voters' records, militia
records, church records, school lists, legislative records, ships'
records, and miscellaneous records.
Special Federal Schedules - 1885 (Colorado, Florida, Nebraska,
territories of Dakota, and New Mexico), Mortality Schedules
(1850-1880); Veterans' (1840, 1890); Slave (1850-1860); Agricultural
(1840-1910); Manufacturing; Social Statistics (1850-1880); and State Censuses.
Many states also had their own census, sometimes at more frequent
intervals. There are census returns in other countries also.
Canada and Great Britain have census for every 10 years since 1841.
There are not nearly as many indexes for these census as for the
U.S. ones, but there is an online index of the 1871 census for
Ontario. Because of their 100 year confidentiality rule, only
1841-1891 are open to the public. They can also be obtained from
the Family History Library. No matter what area you are researching,
one of the first resources you should look for is a census.
Colonial, Territorial, and
State Census Records
ALABAMA 1801, 1808, 1810, 1818, 1820, 1821, 1823, 1832, 1838,
1840, 1844, 1850, 1855, 1866, 1875
ALASKA 1870, 1876, 1878, 1880, 1881, 1885, 1887, 1889,
1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907
ARIZONA 1790, 1796, 1864, 1866, 1867, 1869
ARKANSAS 1823, 1829, 1854
CALIFORNIA 1790, 1798, 1836, 1852, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885,
1895, 1897, 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935
COLORADO 1861, 1866, 1885
CONNECTICUT 1636, 1756, 1762, 1774, 1798
DELAWARE 1776, 1798
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 1798, 1803, 1807, 1818, 1867, 1878, 1885,
1888, 1897, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1912, 1913, 1915,1919
FLORIDA 1790, 1825, 1837, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905,
1915, 1925, 1935, 1945, 1955
GEORGIA 1738, 1740, 1750, 1753, 1756, 1810, 1817, 1824, 1829, 1831,
1838, 1845, 1852,1859
ILLINOIS 1787, 1793, 1810, 1818, 1820, 1825, 1830, 1835, 1840,
1845, 1855, 1865
INDIANA 1801, 1815, 1820, 1825, 1830, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1850, 1865,
1871, 1877, 1883, 1889, 1895, 1901, 1907, 1914, 1921
IOWA 1836, 1838, 1840, 1844, 1846, 1847, 1849, 1851, 1852, 1854,
1856, 1859, 1862, 1863, 1865, 1867, 1869, 1873, 1875, 1885, 1895,
1905, 1915, 1925
KANSAS 1855, 1859, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925
KENTUCKY 1792, 1798, 1799, 1803, 1807, 1811, 1815, 1819, 1823,
1827, 1831, 1835, 1839, 1843, 1847, 1851, 1859, 1867, 1875, 1883,
LOUISIANA 1790, 1805, 1806, 1811, 1813, 1817, 1821, 1825, 1829,
1833, 1837, 1841, 1845, 1853, 1858
MAINE 1798, 1837
MARYLAND 1701, 1704, 1708, 1710, 1712, 1755, 1762, 1776, 1778
MASSECHUSETTS 1754, 1764, 1783, 1785-86, 1793, 1798, 1837, 1840,
1850, 1855, 1860, 1865, 1870, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925,
MICHIGAN 1799, 1806, 1827, 1834, 1837, 1845, 1854, 1864, 1874,
1884, 1894, 1904,1935
MINNESOTA 1830, 1849, 1857, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905
MISSISSIPPI 1774, 1788, 1789, 1792, 1801, 1805, 1808, 1810, 1816,
1820, 1822, 1823, 1824, 1825, 1830, 1837, 1840-41, 1845,
1850-53, 1866, 1880
MISSOURI 1789, 1790, 1796, 1803, 1814, 1817, 1821, 1824, 1828,
1832, 1836, 1840, 1844, 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1864, 1868,1876
NEBRASKA 1854, 1855, 1856, 1861, 1874, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878,
1879, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885
NEVADA 1861, 1863, 1865, 1867, 1875
NEW HAMPSHIRE 1767, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1786, 1798
NEW JERSEY 1726, 1737, 1738, 1745, 1772, 1798, 1855, 1875, 1885,
1895, 1905, 1915
NEW YORK 1698, 1703, 1712, 1714, 1723, 1731, 1737, 1745, 1749,
1756, 1771, 1795, 1798, 1801, 1804, 1807, 1814, 1821, 1825, 1835,
1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1892, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925
NORTH CAROLINA 1784, 1785, 1786, 1787, 1798
NORTH DAKOTA 1885, 1895,1905,1915,1925
OHIO 1790, 1801, 1802, 1807, 1811, 1815, 1819, 1823, 1827, 1831,
1835, 1839, 1843, 1847, 1851, 1855, 1859, 1863, 1867, 1871, 1875,
1879, 1883, 1887, 1891, 1895, 1899, 1903, 1907, 1911, 1915
OKLAHOMA 1860, 1890, 1896, 1907
OREGON 1845, 1849, 1851, 1852, 1856, 1857, 1865, 1875, 1895, 1905
PENNSYLVANIA 1776, 1798
RHODE ISLAND 1708, 1730, 1745, 1749, 1755, 1774, 1782, 1798, 1865,
1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935
SOUTH CAROLINA 1798, 1868, 1875
SOUTH DAKOTA 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935, 1945
TEXAS 1790, 1815, 1829,1836,1847,1848,1858
UTAH 1851, 1856, 1895
VERMONT 1765, 1771, 1798
VIRGINIA 1623, 1624, 1625, 1634, 1699, 1701, 1703, 1779, 1798
WASHINGTON 1871, 1883, 1885, 1889, 1892
WEST VIRGINIA (Part of Virginia until 1863)
WISCONSIN 1830, 1836, 1838, 1842, 1846, 1847, 1855, 1865, 1875,
1885, 1895, 1905
WYOMING 1905, 1915, 1925
The various schedules of the census are the questionnaires
used to gather statistics. Seven schedules were used in one or
more of the censuses available to the public (1790-1920):
The Population Schedule enumerates the people counted during the
census. The 1850 and 1860 Censuses used a Schedule of Free
Inhabitants as its Population Schedule, while the 1890 Census
used a Family Schedule.
The Manufactures Schedule, first used in 1810, counts individual
industries, generally excluding household manufactures .Many
Manufactures Schedules include the name of the proprietor, making
them particularly useful in places where the Population Schedules
First used in 1850, the Mortality Schedule enumerates the people
who died during the Census Year , gathering medical information
to be used to help formulate Public Health policy. In 1850,
1860, 1870, and 1880, census enumerators were directed to secure
in addition to the usually required census data, information as
to all persons dying within the 12 months preceding the census
taking. These lists became known as the "Mortality Schedules".
The Agricultural Schedule counts farms, gathering information
about crops and livestock. It's keyed to the Population Schedule,
and provides detailed information for everyone described as a
Farmer in the census. Since the majority of America's population
was rural until fairly recently, your ancestor probably appears
in an Agricultural Schedule. The schedule doesn't include family
information, but it can be used to learn about your ancestor's farm.
Slave Schedules were used in 1850 and 1860, although information
about the ages of slaves was also collected in 1830 and 1840.
Unfortunately, the schedules only called for the numbers of
slaves by age and gender, so using the schedules for slave
genealogy is quite difficult and subject to frequent
and significant errors.
The Social Statistics Schedule enumerates churches and schools
in each county. They include no personal information .
Three Special Schedules are particularly useful to family
historians, the so-called Census of Pensioners (1840),
the 1890 Special Schedule--Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, and
Marines, and Widows, etc and Indian Division schedules .
Census of Pensioners, 1840
The 1840 Census included on page 2 a space to identify
Pensioners for Revolutionary or military services, included
in the foregoing . The name and exact age of each pensioner
was requested. The Federal Government published an index to
the pensioners in 1841 that includes the information from the
census. Many researchers mistake the index for the special
census itself, and calculate birth years from 1841 instead of 1840
1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 Census
US Marshalls were instructed to file original returns
with the clerks of their district courts, who were
directed to “carefully preserve them.” The name lists
remained in the clerk’s office and the Marshalls’
summaries from the various districts were to be sent
to the President. In 1830 Congress called for the
return of the original censuses for the years 1790 to
1820. Clerks of the district courts were to send the
original returns to Washington. Some clerks had not
preserved the records as directed, others ignored the
1830 order to send the records. Some of these “lost”
records may still exist, buried in storerooms of some
federal district courthouse. For years genealogy experts
erroneously claimed that the British had burned these
records in Washington in 1814, so no one even looked
This is the current status of the Censuses of 1790 to 1820
ALABAMA * 1790 None Taken * 1800 None Taken * 1810 None Taken * 1820 Lost
ARKANSAS * 1790 None Taken * 1800 None Taken * 1810 None Taken * 1820 Lost
CONNECTICUT * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA * 1790 None Taken * 1800 None Taken * 1810 Lost * 1820 Exists
DELAWARE * 1790 Lost * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
GEORGIA * 1790 Lost * 1800 Lost * 1810 Lost * 1820 Exists with 3 counties missing
ILLINOIS * 1790 None Taken * 1800 Lost * 1810 Randolph Co Exists,
St. Clair Co Lost * 1820 Exists
KENTUCKY * 1790 Lost * 1800 Lost * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
LOUISIANA * 1790 None Taken * 1800 None Taken * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
MAINE * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
MARYLAND * 1790 Exists with 3 counties missing * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
MASSACHUSETTS * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
MICHIGAN * 1790 None Taken * 1800 None Taken * 1810 Lost * 1820 Exists
MISSISSIPPI * 1790 None Taken * 1800 Lost * 1810 Lost * 1820 Exists
MISSOURI * 1790 None Taken * 1800 None Taken * 1810 Lost * 1820 Lost
NEW HAMPSHIRE * 1790 Exists missing 13 towns in Rockingham Co and 11 towns in Strafford Co. * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
NEW YORK * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
NEW JERSEY * 1790 Lost * 1800 Lost * 1810 Lost * 1820 Lost
NORTH CAROLINA * 1790 Exists missing 3 counties * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists missing 4 counties * 1820 Exists missing 6 counties
NORTHWEST TERRITORY * 1790 Not Taken * 1800 Lost Washington Co Exists * 1810 Not Taken * 1820 Not Taken
OHIO * 1790 Not Taken * 1800 Not Taken * 1810 Lost * 1820 Exists
PENNSYLVANIA * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
RHODE ISLAND * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
SOUTH CAROLINA * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
TENNESSEE * 1790 Not Taken * 1800 Lost * 1810 Lost * 1820 Nashville Dist Exists, Knoxville Dist Lost (20 Eastern Counties)
VERMONT * 1790 Exists * 1800 Exists * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
VIRGINIA * 1790 Lost (1790 VA Census Index is actually compiled from county tax lists of VA 1785-1787) * 1800 Lost * 1810 Exists * 1820 Exists
CENSUS INFORMATION SUMMARY
A special category was added to the 1820 census to
determine the number of young men in the US of military age.
One column is for , “all males 16-26 years of age,”, while
still another is for “all males 16-18 years of age.” Any
male enumerated in the 16-18 year category, would also be
included in the 16 to 26 year category. Without an understanding
of this unique category, you may assume that the enumerator
totaled the number of family members incorrectly, or that
there is ‘extra’ teen aged male in the family. Instructions
to the US Marshalls were to not add the white males between
16 and 18 to the totals because they would be repeated in the
16 to 26 category.
1830 and 1840
Starting with the 1830 census, a new law required
that a second name by name copy of the census be made, one
to be sent to Washington, the other to be retained by the
district court. The copies in Washington are the ones that
were microfilmed and are now held at the National Archives.
Some are the originals, others are the copies. If the
handwriting remains the same, crossing town and county
boundaries, or if the names are in alphabetical order,
you are probably viewing the copy.
1850 to 1870
In 1850 the first Census Bureau was established to
collect the census schedules and prepare the reports. The
law was now revised to require 2 additional copies. The
original was displayed at the county courthouse and the first
copy, by county, was sent to the state. The State or
territorial Secretary of State then made a “federal copy”
that was sent to the Census Bureau in Washington. As a
researcher, it is important that you remember the films
you see at the National Archives are copies of the third
transcription of the information originally given by your
ancestor, and consider the margin of error.
For the first time in 1880 the Census Bureau hired
its own census takers and was given the budget to take full
control of the entire census. The federal courts and the
secretaries of state were no longer involved. The original
still stayed with the county, and the first copy went to
Washington. Enumeration Districts were organized. New
information included the relationships of each person to
the head of household, the birthplace of every person, and
the birthplace of their parents as well.
99% of the original 1890 census was destroyed in a
fire at the Commerce Building in Washington in the early 1920’s.
In 1890 the Census Bureau established new format for
recording information. Each family was on a separate sheet.
The volume of paper created was tremendous. The originals
were to be sent to Washington. Congress financed only one
copy and any copies became optional. If a county wanted a
set they had to pay the copying costs. Only Washington
County, GA is known to have done this. All of the pieces
of the census recovered from the fire fit on one roll of
microfilm. It is indexed.
1900 to 1940
In the 1940’s the accumulated census records were
becoming a terrific storage problem in Washington. The Census
Bureau determined the censuses of 1900 to 1940 should be
microfilmed. When the filming was complete, the original
census schedules were burned.
Earlier Censuses and Printed Indexes
The obvious strategy for locating your ancestors on
census records is to look for them in the state and city and
on the street that you know they lived. Of course, if you
knew all that information you might want to quit while you
are ahead. Really, most people don't know exactly where the
family lived and that is why the government indexed many of
the census schedules. The task of indexing census rolls was
enormous -- in fact it was a Works Progress Administration
project --so appreciate the contribution of this government
Early censuses have been indexed by private companies,
usually in the form of bound volumes. Since these books are quite
expensive, most libraries will have a limited collection. (
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has an extensive
collection, but they do not circulate.) It may pay to visit
different libraries in your area to find out which indexes
they carry. An index will usually cover one state, but some
states have been divided. All states have been indexed for
1790-1850. The last censuses being indexed are 1860 and 1870.
These indexes are printed books, but generally computer
generated, the majority being done by Accelerated Indexing
Systems. The data used to produce these books has been
reproduced on CD-ROM disks (available from Broderbund
Software). There is a master disk which combines all the
states that have been indexed by Accelerated Indexing as
well as names from other CD-ROMS in the collection. The
master index is a part of Broderbund's FamilyFinder index,
which is available on-line and also comes with CD-ROM versions
of their Family Tree Maker software. Once you have located the
name on the master disk, you can go to the individual disks for
the complete reference. The individual census disks are available
for purchase or are available at some libraries. The CD-ROM
index is handy because it combines all the states. In addition,
many errors, typos and misspellings in the original books have
Locating the Entry
The index will list the name of the head of household,
give the town and county of residence and page number. Some
indexes include everyone in the household, but usually it is
only the head of the household. Since an elderly parent may
be living with a married child, you may not find him or her
in the index. Once you locate the entry, note all the
information from the index - county and township - not just
the page number. Then go to the list of microfilm rolls for
that state and county and then turn to that page number.
Be sure you have the right county before you look too closely
at page numbers. You may have the correct film for the county
you need, but there may be another county first on the roll
and each county may have its own set of numbers.
A page number is generally a bold number stamped in
the upper right hand corner. Sometimes there will be
handwritten page numbers and there may even be more than
one set of stamped numbers. Sometimes every other page is
numbered so your name may not appear on the page with the
number, but a preceding or following page. If you are having
trouble finding the entry, be sure you are in the right township.
PREPARING FOR OUTSIDE RESEARCH
Call before you go to find out what days and hours they are open.
Make sure that they are open to the general public and find out
if you need to pay any fees. Ask for directions and parking information.
Pack a briefcase for your trip. Bring pens and pencils (some
places do not allow the use of pens), paper, file folders, forms,
and any genealogical information of your own that you will need.
Bring a roll of quarters. You may need to make photocopies,
use lockers, feed a parking meter, or purchase a mid-afternoon
snack from a vending machine.
If possible, set aside a day when you will have several hours
free, and start early. There's nothing more frustrating than
finding some great information right before you have to leave.