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Researching USA Census Records 1790-1930
Column published: 12 Jun 2007
By: Shirley Gage Hodges Biography & Archived Articles
Census records are among the most common and important records used by the genealogical researcher. Learning to use them to full advantage is the key to being a successful researcher. The census record may contain valuable information about a family's history, however it must be carefully reviewed and analyzed. We need to research the instructions that were given to the census takers and understand why they asked the questions that they did. Each federal census is different from the one before it. It is important that we learn about the differences and take them into account.
It is important that we pay careful attention to the date the information was taken. Each census had an official date that the information was to be taken. We need to always check and see if the enumerator included this on the record. Sometimes a person might have died after the official date but have been included in the record. The same holds true for births.
The official dates that the U.S. Federal Census was taken "as of" a certain date are as follows: Census year Date of Census
1800 - First Monday in August (4th)
1810 - First Monday in August (6th)
1820 - First Monday in August (7th)
1830 - 1900 June 1
1910 - April 15
1920 - January 1
1930 - April 2 (in Alaska began on 1 October 1929.)
Census-taker at work - early 20th century
Special Census Schedules
Information that may be determined from facts found in a census record:
Bibliography of Census Resources:
A Guide to United States Census 1790-1930, Shirley Gage Hodges, Global Heritage Press Inc., Campbellville, ON, 2007
National Archives; "Chapter 1: Census Records;" Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives; Washington, DC, revised 1983.
National Archives; Federal Population Censuses, 1790-1890: A Catalog of Microfilm Copies of the Schedules; 1977
Greenwood, Val D.; Census Returns;" Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy; Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.; 1990.
Thorndale, William and William Dollarhide. Map Guide to the U. S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920; Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987.
"In Praise of Errors Made by Census Enumerators" by Alycon Trubey Pierce, C.G., National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 1, March 1993, pgs. 51-55.
"Finding Missing Men on Early Census Records: The Example of Thomas Russell" by Ruth Land Hatten, C.G.R.S., National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 1, March 1993, pgs. 47-50.
May you find every ancestor
on every census schedule
that has survived for his or her
place and time.
Until next time :)
Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930
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