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Genealogy: Making Sense of Census

Where did I come from? How did I get here? It's not biology, it's genealogy. Here are some places to go and tips and tricks to leaf out your family tree!

Basic Facts About Census

First US Census - 1790

Taken decennially, starting June 1 of the census year

Some states first Census burned so what is "called" the first Census is actually a recreation from earlier State and County individual Census. ex. Virginia

Before 1850, not that helpful

1850 and beyond, better information collected

1860: Names of entire household included, not just numbers

1880: Relationship of members of household to head of house.

    (Good to figure out in-laws or others living in the house who aren't spouse and children.)

1890 - most data has been lost in a 1921 fire

Penmanship and spelling were NOT requirements

Census Troubleshooting

I can't find my relatives!

  1. Think about possible spelling/transcription errors
  2. Check preceding and following pages in case there are more family living close by
  3. Double check the township/county... did the boundaries shift? Maybe they were actually in a neighboring county if lines were different.
  4. Google and Wikipedia are great for county history to check for boundary movement.

Subject Guide

Cari Alexander's picture
Cari Alexander

Phone: 817-257-6623