Your complete guide to finding and using your ancestors' US census records in your genealogy research.
Imagine someone showing up at your American ancestors’ door every 10 years and taking a group photo of the household. You’d want all of those pictures, wouldn’t you? They’d show a time-lapse biography of your family. You’d study each person’s age progression, how hairstyles and fashions changed, who appeared or disappeared (and when) and how the backdrop changed over time.
The US census is that decade-by-decade picture—albeit in words. Every decade, census-takers compiled a list of nearly all American households. As time went on, they gathered slightly different—but increasingly more—information. By the late 1800s, censuses could tell us who lived with whom and how they were related, how well they lived, what work they did, and sometimes when or where they were born, married and died.