The Villages Genealogical Society
Facts, Tips & Tricks
Tips to help you discover and trace your genealogy.
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The U.S. Federal Census is taken every 10 years on a designated census day by an "enumerator" in a specific area called an enumeration district. The first census was done in 1790; there are no censuses before 1790.
Federal Census records are available to the public 72 years after they are taken.
In addition to the census population count, there are a number of special censuses: Slave, Industry & Manufacturing, Agriculture, Mortality, Social Statistics, Union Veteran and Widow, Defective, Dependent and Delinquent.
Be sure to look at several families before and after the family you are researching. These people are most likely the friends or family of your ancestor. Many lived in the same community very near each other.
1790-1840 Censuses only list the head of the household, but don't overlook using them. They are helpful to place a family in specific locations at specific times.
The 1840 Census asks about names and ages of Pensioners for Revolutionary or other Military Service.
The 1850 census was the first census to give the name, sex, color, age, occupation and birthplace of each free member of the household.
The 1880 census was the first to identify the relationship between the household member and the head of house.
What happened to the 1890 U.S. Census? A fire broke out in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C.on January 10, 1921. The census records were stored improperly in the basement and were soaked with water and no restoration efforts were made to save the documents. The damaged records were destroyed sometime between 1933 and 1935 when they were deemed no longer necessary.
Have any other records been destroyed? Yes! In 1896 fire damaged the 1890 supplemental schedules of crime, mortality and pauperism and other special classes. Any remains were later destroyed by order of The Interior Department.
Only the 1900 census asks for the person's month and year of birth.
The 1900 and 1910 censuses lists the number of years of marriage for each married household member.
The 1900 and 1910 censuses lists the number of children that were born to each woman and how many were still living at the time of the census.
The 1910 census lists survivors of Union or Confederate army or naval service.
The 1930 census lists the value of the property if owned, or the monthly rental if rented. This could lead to locating deeds, tax or mortgage records.
The 1930 census lists military service in other wars: "Sp" for the Spanish-American War, "Phil" for the Philippine Insurrection, "Box" for the Boxer Rebellion, "Mex" for the Mexican Expedition, and "WW" for World War 1. Civil War veterans with the abbreviation "CW".
The 1940 Census lists answers to several new questions never asked before including where they lived in 1935 and what was their income for the previous year.
Census Naturalization status codes: "Al" for alien, "Pa" for "first papers," and "Na" for naturalized.
Don't assume that all children listed in the census belong to the wife listed. This may be a second wife and the children a combination of "his and hers".
When the head of the household is no longer listed, don't assume he/she is dead. It's possible that the former head of household is now living with one of the children