U.S. Census the Number One Collection on FamilySearch

Contributed By Livi Whitaker, Church News contributor

  • 16 January 2015

Of the 1,800 available collections on FamilySearch.org, the U.S. Census is the most used. 

Article Highlights

  • The U.S. Census records are available from 1790 to 1940 at 10-year intervals.
  • The census records provide information concerning a particular family, including age, occupation, education, and birthplace of each member.

Of the 1,800 online historical record collections found on FamilySearch.org, the most searched collection is the free United States census collection, which spans from 1790 to 1940. Census records are a family history staple. These census records offer a snapshot in time of the entire population of the country—in the case of U.S. federal censuses, every 10 years. Census records are so popular because they are a great tool for reconstructing families and identifying family migration patterns throughout the country and fluctuations of family members of a given household.

Earlier census records from 1790 to 1840 list basic household facts such as the name of the head of house, an age range for each family member, place of residence, ethnic origin, and more. Depending on the historical time the census was taken, different types of information were recorded. For example, the 1790 U.S. Census lists this type of information:

·      Name of head of household

·      Free white males and females of various age ranges

·      Slave males and females of various ages

·      Other free persons (including Indians)

·      Occupation of the head of house

·      Where the family lived at the time of the census

Census records from 1850 through 1940 are more complete and contain much more useful information. Some of the information you will find in census records dating from 1850 up to 1940 include:

·         Names of all family members

·         Names of visitors and relatives living in the home when the census was taken

·         Date of immigration

·         Relationships

·         In some cases, month and year of birth

·         Occupation

·         Where each person was born and lived at the time the census was taken

·         Education level

·         Property ownership

·         Much more uniquely individual information

According to the Familysearch.org wiki, “Census records are among the richest and most rewarding family history records available. Depending on which census your ancestor is in, you can learn where he or she lived at a particular place or time, learn his or her place of birth, and what he or she did for a living, among many other bits of valuable information. With the advent of scanning and indexing technology, census records are now available online, making this incredible resource available to more people than ever.”

Jana Last, an avid family history blogger, describes the value of the 1940 U.S Census on her site, Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog. “It’s really amazing what the 1940 census can tell us about the kinds of lives our ancestors were living at that time. It was (kind of) sad to see that my Great-Grandpa Carl was working as a vegetable peddler from a private truck. Of course, this was during the Great Depression. The census states that Carl was engaged in Public Emergency Work, and was seeking employment at the time. In Sweden he worked as a tinsmith, according to a passenger list, and subsequently he worked as a baker and laborer here in the U.S. according to several census records and my own grandmother Ingrid's personal history. I really appreciate the sacrifices my ancestors made to come here to the U.S.!”

With the treasure trove of information found in each census year, the number of years census records span, their value in reconstructing family units, and the ease of access to these census records, it is no wonder that the United States Census Records are the most popular record collection on FamilySearch.org.

Search FamilySearch.org’s census collection by clicking on this U.S. Census collections link.