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The Ease of Accessing U. S. Censuses

Did you know that every US census is available on the Internet? You can access censuses from the earliest, taken in 1790, through the most recently released • the 1930. In addition to scanned images of microfilm copies, genealogical companies have gene

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Nathan Murphy
Word Count: 368 (approx.)
Labels: Census 
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Did you know that every US census is available on the Internet? You can access censuses from the earliest, taken in 1790, through the most recently released • the 1930. In addition to scanned images of microfilm copies, genealogical companies have generated indexes to complement each of these records. As never before, family historians can tap the treasure trove of US resources from the comfort of their own home.

Beginning in 1790, the US government called for censuses every ten years. Tragically many of the 1790 and 1800 censuses have been destroyed. In addition, several states, such as Tennessee, did not begin taking censuses immediately after achieving statehood. Washington, D.C. admitted Tennessee into the union in 1796, but the first statewide census does not occur until 1820. Census substitutes, constructed by genealogists from tax lists and other sources, help elucidate uncounted residents. Also, beware that the 1890 Census, with the exception of a few scattered remnants, is inexistent.

Two chief websites house the images of the United States population: Ancestry (www.ancestry.com) and Heritage Quest (www.heritagequestonline.com). These sites require subscriptions, but can be freely accessed at many public libraries (in particular Heritage Quest) and LDS Family History Centers (Ancestry). For Ancestry's census searches, the fee is $19.95/month or $99.95/year. For additional details regarding the Heritage Quest database, visit www.heritagequest.com. Individuals wishing to conduct extensive census research should consider purchasing these and the other valuable services provided by these companies. The following is a year-by-year breakdown of where to currently find censuses and indexes:

Year      Ancestry      Heritage Quest
1790         AB             AB
1800          AB             AB
1810          AB             AB
1820          AB             AB
1830         AB
1840          AB      
1850          AB      
1860          ABC             A*
1870          ABC             AB
1880          ABC            
1890          
1900          A             AB
1910          AB             AB
1920          AB             AB
1930          ABC             A*

Legend:

A • Census images
B • Head of household index
C • Every name index
* • Partial index

Many non-profit websites also contain transcriptions of US census records. Sites such as USGenWeb Census Project (www.us-census.org), Cyndi's List (www.cyndislist.com/census.htmand), and Census Finder (www.censusfinder.com) can point genealogists towards free websites. Since volunteers do not type as quickly as paid employees, these projects lack complete coverage. If you are lucky, you may find censuses applicable for your research. Realize that one pitfall in using them involves lack of accompanying digitized images (which are available on the pay-per-view sites) necessitating trust in the lady or gentleman transcriber. In addition, the 1880 US Federal Census appears transcribed and fully indexed at Family Search (www.familysearch.org).

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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