U.S. Census: A Few of My Favorite Things

A Census is a Census. Right?

You would think that a census would have pretty much the same information from one U.S. Census year to the next. However, this is simply not true. When I first began doing genealogical research I was astounded (and intimidated) when someone would tell me, “You need to find the family in the 1850 U.S. Census because individual family members weren’t listed in earlier censuses).” Later in the conversation I might hear the suggestion, “You should look for them in the 1900 census, because you can see how many children a woman had and how many were still living. Too bad we don’t have the 1890 Census…”

The 1850 U.S. Census is the first Census to list the names of all members of the household.

As a beginner I couldn’t fathom how someone could have so much knowledge about the nuances of one decennial census to the next. Now, ten years later, my research has brought me to a point where these differences are second nature to me as well! If some of you are still learning, however, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my favorite things about select U.S. Census record sets. This list is not comprehensive. It just highlights some of the things I love to use in my research.

1920 U.S. Census shows my ggg-grandfather was born in Canada and his mother tongue was German.

Favorite Things about U.S. Census Records

1790 It exists! Traditionally held to be the first national census of the United States
1830 Standardized format for each State;
Numbers of males and females in age bands
1850 Lists everyone in the household with specific age, occupation, and place of birth!
1870 Columns 11-14 contain 1) Parents of foreign birth,
2) month born if born within the year, and
3) month married if married within the year
1880 Lists relationship to Head of Household;
Includes place of birth of father and mother
1890 If you are lucky enough to have ancestors that lived in 1 of 20 some-odd counties that survived! Otherwise… Boo Hoo!
1900 Includes Street & House Number; Month & Year of Birth (discontinued in 1910);
# of children born and living; Year of Immigration
1910 Shows # of years in present marriage;
# of children born and living;
Year of Immigration;
Veteran of Union or Confederate armies
1920 Shows place of birth and mother tongue of individual, father, and mother;
Farm schedule
1930 Includes Age at first marriage;
Schedule of unemployment
1940 Shows residence in 1935
1950 Just seeing if you were actually reading this!
The 1950 Census will be made public in 2022 🙂

Did I miss something? What are your favorite things about the U.S. Census records? Share and comment below!

Share this!

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *