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Genealogy and Family History: Census Records

A guide to assist those interested in starting a family history project.

Census Records

If you are new to genealogy, you will quickly find the importance of using census records in your research. If you are an advanced genealogist you already know the value of them. They enable you to track your family from decade to decade, location to location. Since 1790, every 10 years the U.S. has conducted a federal census. Census are not unique to the the federal government, states sometimes conducted their own census as well. State census were often taken between the federal ones. Therefore, providing a more continuous picture of your changing family. Knowing how to drill down and extract data out of both types of census is invaluable.

What is the Census?

Merriam Webster defines a census as:

a usually complete enumeration of a population; specifically a periodic governmental enumeration of population

Importance of Census Records in Your Genealogical Research

What is the 72 Year Rule?

The U.S. Census Bureau will only release a census 72 years after its been taken. That is why the public can currently only access the 1790-1940 Census records. Therefore, the 1950 Census will not be released until April 2022. Want to know more? See below.

Blank U.S. Federal Census Forms 1790-1940

Census records frequently show their age. Reading the top columns on a census page can be challenging. That is why using a clean, easy to read blank census form will help your research. Also, just browsing the questions throughout the history of the census will give you a good idea as to why census records are so important. Just as a small example, they can tell you how many times a person has been married, how many children did a woman have, how many survived, disabilities, etc.

TMCC Library: Books on the Census

Census Records: Pre 1850

Pre-1850 Census Worksheets - Forms to Help it all Make Sense

Articles on how to Extract Data Out of the Pre-1850 Census Forms

State Census

Census and Maps

Ani Maps: County Boundary Software

County boundaries have changed over time. If your relatives lived in a particular county in one census, while they may not have moved, in the following census they may be living in an entirely different county. Knowing this information makes tracking your family history much easier. The TMCC Library offers AniMap County Boundary maps on all of their in-library computers.  Feel free to visit our library and utilize this valuable resource.

List of Extinct U.S. Counties