Census Records

Conducted every 10 years in the U.S. since 1790, the U.S. census attempts to enumerate the population.  Of course, having changed greatly since 1790, these census records available for genealogy research can reveal names of household members, ages, occupations, education, marital status, and address. 

Census records remain essentially private for 72 years; therefore, the latest census available for genealogy research is the 1930 census.  The 1940 census will be released on April 1, 2012.

The census is a must for genealogy research and this is where you should begin.

Search Federal Census Schedules 1790-1930 at Ancestry.com:  (Scroll down to the State Links to search available free resources.)

Free State Resources

U.S. and Canada Census Records This will search all U.S. and Canada census resources at Ancestry.com

1850 Slave Schedules **Ancestry.com** This database details those persons enumerated in the Slave Schedule of the 1850 United States Federal Census, the Seventh Census of the United States. In addition, the names of those listed on the slave schedule are linked to the actual images of the 1850 Federal Census. Slaves were enumerated separately during the 1850 and 1860 censuses, though, unfortunately, most schedules do not provide personal names. In most cases, individuals were not named but were simply numbered and can be distinguished only by age, sex, and color; the names of owners are recorded. However, some enumerators listed the given names of slaves, particularly those over one hundred years of age. These names are generally found in the "name of slave owners" column. Other questions asked include whether a fugitive from the state (meaning if the slave had fled and not returned); number manumitted (or freed); and whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic.

1860 Slave Schedules **Ancestry.com** This database details those persons enumerated in the Slave Schedule of the 1860 United States Federal Census, the Seventh Census of the United States. In addition, the names of those listed on the slave schedule are linked to the actual images of the 1860 Federal Census. Slaves were enumerated separately during the 1850 and 1860 censuses, though, unfortunately, most schedules do not provide personal names. In most cases, individuals were not named but were simply numbered and can be distinguished only by age, sex, and color; the names of owners are recorded. However, some enumerators listed the given names of slaves, particularly those over one hundred years of age. These names are generally found in the "name of slave owners" column. Other questions asked include whether a fugitive from the state (meaning if the slave had fled and not returned); number manumitted (or freed); and whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic, and number of slave houses.

1890 Veterans Schedules **Ancestry.com** This database is an index to individuals enumerated in the 1890 special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows of veterans. Although this schedule was to be used to enumerate Union veterans, in some areas, Confederate veterans were listed as well. The 1890 veterans schedules provided spaces for the following information: names of surviving soldiers, sailors, and marines, and widows; rank; name of regiment or vessel; date of enlistment; date of discharge, length of service; post office address; disability incurred; and remarks. Although all of this information is available on the census schedules themselves, information listed in this index includes the veteran's name or widow's name, rank, year of enlistment, and year of discharge.

1890 Census Substitute ** Ancestry.com** When a basement fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. destroyed most of the 1890 federal census, a valuable source of information was lost to researchers of America's past. More than 20 million records have been identified for inclusion in the collection and additions will be made regularly as they become available for posting. It will include fragments of the original 1890 census that survived the fire, special veterans schedules, several Native American tribe censuses for years surrounding 1890, state censuses (1885 or 1895), city and county directories, alumni directories, and voter registration documents. When completed, this collection will be an unparalleled tool for researchers of American ancestors.

AIS Census Indexes ** Ancestry.com** This collection contains Federal Census Indexes, State Census Indexes, and indexes to various Federal non-population schedules (Mortality Schedules, Veterans Schedules, Slaves Schedules) for most of the U.S. and parts of Canada. The scope of the collection includes colonial records (pre-1790 tax lists, resident's lists, etc.) and censuses from 1790 to 1870. Some census indexes for later years exist for some states (i.e. Hawaii 1910, Colorado 1880, etc.). It is estimated that the collection contains information on some 35 million people.