The U.S. Census

The U.S. census is a great place to start your research. If you followed my instructions for doing an online search you should have found census information for your family. Depending on your goals you may want to find your family in a particular census. As you are able to find your family in earlier and earlier censuses you will be able to find earlier and earlier ancestors!


The Federal census has been taken every ten years (decennial) since 1790. The actual forms have been made public, and continue to be made pulic 72 years after the census date. The most recently released is the 1940 Census, made public in April, 2012. Very little of the 1890 census survived a fire, but otherwise they are all available, from 1790 through 1940. The earliest censuses do not list everyone in the family, and many early censuses did not include detailed information about the people listed. The more recent censuses have some very helpful information such as the date married, number of children born to an adult woman, and the year of immigration for non-native born people. This type of additional information can lead to other records to help you find more records. For example, to find a ship manifest for an immigrant it is very helpful to know what year they arrived in the US. The ship manifest may have key information about your ancestors.


Brief description of key data collected:


  • 1880: Name, sex, Color/Race, marital status, relationship to head of household, address, age, occupation, place of birth, place of birth for mother, place of birth for father

  • 1900: Same as 1880, plus: month and year of birth, numnber of years married, Number of children born to woman, number of chidlren still living, year of immigration, number of years in the US, status of immigrant's citizenship (alien, naturalized or in process), home ownership status.

  • 1910: Same as 1880, plus: numnber of years married, Number of children born to woman, number of chidlren still living, year of immigration, alien or naturalized,

  • 1920: Same as 1880, plus: year of immigration, alien or naturalized, year of naturalization

  • 1930: Same as 1880, plus: age when married, year of immigration, naturalization status,

  • 1940: Same as 1880, plus: citizenship status, place of residence in 1935


In addition, the censuses have information about education, home ownership and a few other items.