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Genealogical Sources – United States Census

May 31st, 2020 · No Comments · City Library, Main Branch, News, NH Room, West Branch

The United State Census is very helpful in developing leads and clues about your ancestors, as you build your family history. Starting in 1790, the United States Census has been taken every 10 years. Each Census year has different questions. Here are some elements, from the census over the years that can help you with your search:

1790 Census – The only name listed per household is the head of the household. The count for the members of the household was broken down to:

  • free white males of 16 years and upward (including head of household)
  • free white males under 16
  • free white females
  • all other free persons
  • slaves

1800 – 1840 Census – Basically the same format as 1790 Census, but includes more groupings of age groups.

1850 Census – The first one with all the individuals of the household listed, as well as the state or country where they were born.

1880 Census – Includes the birth locations of the individual’s parents. This census also started to show street addresses.

1890 Census – Not much of this census exists due to a major fire. The veterans schedule is the main part which survived.

1900 Census – The only year that has the month and year of an individual’s birth, instead of age. Other elements listed include number of children born to the mother and how many are still living, citizenship status of the individual and the year of immigration to the United States.

1910 Census – Number of years married

1930 Census – Age of individual when first married

1940 Census – Showed 1940 residence, in addition to the 1935 general residence

1950 Census – Scheduled to be released sometime in 2022

To search the census on, you can click on the census year that you want on the first page:

or you can select the green Begin Searching button and do a general search of possible records, including census records, for an individual using the person’s name, location (specific or just state / country) and birth year.

Let’s use the 1930 census, and the library’s benefactor, Frank Pierce Carpenter, for our example.

Regarding birth year, I have found there is a greater potential for hits if you give an earlier year rather than a later year. Using the second searching option, you will get additional databases hits than just the census records.

HearitageQuest database is similar when searching the census databases, with the choices located on the first page. Looking over the hits, from your search, each one has “View Record” and View Image.”

The image view shows the actual census page that the transcribed information came from.

 It is a good idea to compare the two. One time, I had the person listed as a 6-yeard old in the transcription, but on the actual record she was a wife in her sixties!

By looking at the actual census pages, you can see who the neighbors are.

Maybe, there is an independent child with a wife, living near a parent or another sibling. You never know what you will find.

If you have general questions about Ancestry or Heritage Quest, or searching techniques, you can e-mail me at

Explore and experiment with the databases. Who know what stories you will find? Let the adventure begin!

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