• by Dave Miller

It's Census time! How much do you know about the U.S. Census?

We recently celebrated Census Day across the U.S. where households completed census questions about their households. Many of you have had an opportunity to work on your family history during this time where we are looking for things to do at home. Have you used the Census records in your research? Do you know that much about the Census? The U.S. Census can open up many doors in your family research! Do you know how far back the Census records go in our history?

The U.S. Census started with the population census in 1790 and is conducted every 10 years. The first series of census records mainly had the names of the head of each household and usually the number of people in the household based on the number of males and females.

The 1850 Census was the first time that the name of every member of the household was listed along with their age and their places of birth and occupation. The census also asked the value of real estate owned.

The 1900 Census contained even more information including the month of birth for every individual within the household, the year of immigration and whether that person was naturalized. The most recent census available to the public is the 1940 census. That census was conducted just before the start of World War Two. Each page has a supplementary section where two people are asked additional questions about the mother tongue or native language for that person, what their usual occupation was at the time of the census, and whether they had a social security number. Remember, social security had only begun about six years prior to that census.

Many of the 20th century census records asked questions such as the highest grade achieved in school, how many children the women had at the time of the census and how many were still living. The United State have also gathered other types of information in addition to just the population census. This included agriculture, mortality, business and manufacturing schedules.

The 1890 Census also had a veterans schedule for Civil War veterans. Those questions asked whether the veteran was collecting the veteran's pension or if the widow was collecting the pension. It also asked what rank, company and regiment or on which vessel the veteran served during the Civil War. It even asks the dates of enlistment and discharge for each veteran. Unfortunately, most of the population schedule from the 1890 census was destroyed during the Department of Commerce fire in 1921. There are still some fragments of the population schedule that remain in existence.

There is a seventy two year restriction on each census. The next population census that will become public is the 1950 Census. That will occur in 2022. This most recent 2020 Census won't become available to the public until 2092.

A number of other countries also have census records that contain similar information. The U.S. Census contains a wealth of information for the family historian especially those searching for their ancestors who immigrated to the U.S. The U.S. Census should be one of the first records any researched should checkout when starting their family ancestry. Finding your ancestor in the census can help you identify where they lived at that time, if they had immigrated to the U.S., what they did for a living and identify other family members. This can lead you to other records in your research

Census records are available on many genealogy websites including Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org. The 1940 Census is free to search and can also be found on the National Archives web site: Archives.gov. You can also find more information on each census schedule including charts and forms on Archives.gov.

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