Tips for Federal U. S. Census Records

The United States Federal Census was taken every 10 years to count the total population of the United States. Here are some things you need to know when searching and adding
U. S. Census Records to your family tree.

U.S. Federal Census Tips:

  1. The U. S. Government has taken a population census from 1790 to the present day. Available on microfilm previously; now available online.

  2. Each census year, one day was designed as the census day. The information given to the census taker was to be correct as of that date.

  3. *This date was not necessarily the day that the numeration was recorded at each home.

  4. Persons who died after the census day were to be included if they were alive on the census day.

  5. Babies born after the census day were to be omitted because they were not a member of the household yet.

  6. Not all enumerators (census takers) followed these rules.

  7. READ your census record closely!

  8. U.S. Census records are held by the National Archives and are released to the public every 72 years.

  9. Most of the 1890 Census was destroyed in a Department of Commerce fire, though partial records are available for some counties in these states: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, District of Columbia.

  10. A Special Census of Civil War Union Veterans and their Widows from 1890 is available for the following 34 states: District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, Utah, Vermont, Wyoming, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Texas.

  11. The most recent U.S. Census record release was in 2012 for the 1940 Census. The next U.S. Census release will be the 1950 Census in April 2022.


U.S. CENSUS DAYS:
1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 – 1st Monday in August

1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900 – June 1st

1880 – Native American Indian Schedule – October 1st

1910 – April 15th

1930, 1940, 1950, 1960 – April 1st


The National Archives gives several valuable tips on reading US Census records and points out many unique clues that you can obtain about your ancestors for each year of the census. Even if you are an experienced researcher I really suggest visiting their Census web page for A LOT of valuable information to enhance your use and understanding of the census information.

*There may be clues in your records that you are not locked into yet!!! FUN!! Look for the headings in the right upper side bar “Clues in Census Records: 1790 -1840” and “Clues in Census Records: 1850 – 1930” and “More Census Resources”.

You can research U.S. Census records for free online at the National Archives web site at:

National Archives – U.S. Census Records

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