Using Census Records for Genealogy Research

Deep-dive into US census records and other population counts. From helpful research resources to clues about solving ancestor mysteries, our experts provide solutions to your toughest census conundrums.



Using US Census Records Self-Study

Learn how to use census records to track your ancestry and build up your family tree in this self-paced, learn on your own (no instructor) online family history course.


Free Census Records Resources from
Family Tree Magazine

How to Research in Census Records

Official US Census Dates


The date a census taker wrote on his form isn’t as important as the official census date: Enumerators were supposed to list individuals’ ages as of a date specified by the Census Bureau. January 1 was “Census Day” for the 1920 enumeration, so someone born Feb. 12, 1909, should be recorded as 10 on the census form—even if the census taker visited in April. This magic date varied, so use this chart to sort out ancestors’ reported ages. Click on the year to discover more about that specific census (if available).


August 2

August 4

August 6

August 7

June 1

June 1

June 1

June 1

Special + Alternate Census Records

Researching State Census Records

Census Research Case Studies

Early Census Records

1940 Census Records

Census Records Research Resources


When you’re looking for census records, note that the government didn’t give uniform instructions to census takers until 1850, so the content and format prior to that date may vary. And unfortunately, most of the 1890 census burned in a Commerce Department fire in 1921. To supplement the national enumerations, try looking at state censuses, which were taken between federal ones.



Agricultural Censuses, Statistics by Decade


Free Census Project

Guide to Census Non-Population Schedules at Duke University

HeritageQuest Online

Historical Census Browser

NARA: Census Records

Orphans’ Home Website

USGenWeb Archives

WEBSITES (Canadian and UK)

1901 Census for England and Wales: Search this census index for free (warning: it’s notorious for errors), then pay about to see transcribed details on a person and view a record image. UK and Ireland Collection: A subscription gets you linked images and indexes for the 1871, 1891 and 1901 censuses of England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Automated Genealogy: So far, this index to the 1901 Canadian census has 5.6 million lines transcribed. Search on a name, then use the geographic data to find a record image at the National Archives of Canada website, which you can search by location only.

British Origins: England and Wales Census 1841: For a yearly fee, you can search the earliest enumeration to list everyone living at a residence, rather than just the head of household.

The Genealogist: The Census Name-Indexing Project has transcribed 1841 to 1901 UK census information and made it available online. To view an index for a county during a particular census year, you need to purchase a subscription.


1930 Census: NARA’s “comprehensive guide” gives search strategies and answers to frequently asked questions about the most recent census open to the public.

1940 Census Facts: The American Family Through Time

Census Finder: Pick a state from the pull-down menu for links to online record sources.

Census Links: Click the United States link, then select a state and county to surf related census material.

Census Online: You’ll find links to enumerations on both free and subscription websites.

Census Questions by Decade

Cyndi’s List: Census

FamilySearch Wiki: United States Census

Genealogy Toolbox

One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse: US Census Publications and Resources

ProQuest Guide to HeritageQuest Online: U.S. Federal Census

Resources for Genealogists: Census Records: Access NARA’s online guide to getting and using federal census records.

Searching the US Census by Name in One-Step: subscribers get more flexible census searching here.

Unified Census ED Finder from One-Step: If you know your city-dwelling ancestor’s town and street, use this site to identify enumeration districts for the 1910 to 1930 censuses.

USGenWeb Census Project: USGenNet, a splinter group from the original USGenWeb, offers a search form and a chart of available transcriptions and scanned images.

ONLINE RESOURCES (State-specific)

Colorado State Archives: 1870 Census Index: Click on an alphabetical surname range and look for your ancestor in this browsable index.

Dakota Territory 1860 Census: Search this pre-statehood enumeration by surname.

Dakota Territory 1885 Census

Historic Pittsburgh Census Schedules: Search federal census data for Pittsburgh from 1850 to 1880, and Allegheny City from 1850 through 1870.

Idaho State Historical Society: 1890 Idaho Census: View a copy of the 1890 census index, recently reconstructed by volunteers, covering select Idaho counties.

Illinois Genealogy Trails: Census by County: This Prairie State website provides links to statewide census data, including listings by county.

Kansas Census: Federal and State, 1855 to 1930: The Kansas State Historical Society offers a smattering of online indexes to state and federal censuses. Click on the link for each census year to find out what’s available.

Library of Michigan 1870 Census Index: You can search this index by name, county or township.

Maryland State Archives Census Indexes: Search indexes of the 1776 and 1778 state censuses, the 1870 federal census for 22 counties plus Baltimore, and the 1880 federal census for Anne Arundel County.

Nevada Historical Census: : The Silver State is the first to put all its federal census data online — 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920.

New York State Census: This informative site provides microfilm numbers for New York state censuses. It also links to data for the 1720 Albany, 1714 Dutchess, 1702 Orange and 1689 Ulster county censuses.

Oregon State Archives: Census Records: Access indexes to state censuses for the years 1865, 1875, 1885 and 1895.

TNGenWeb Project: Part of the USGenWeb Project and run by volunteers, you can search by Tennessee’s 95 counties.

Special Maine 1837 Census: To view data from this enumeration, select a locality. Find links to special censuses for Wisconsin Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Florida and the Dakotas at the bottom of the page.

Washington Historical Records Search: Scour territorial census records from 1847 to 1892, plus the entire 1910 census of Washington.


The American Census Handbook by Thomas Jay Kemp (SR Books)

The American Census: A Social History by Margo J. Anderson (Yale University Press)

The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes by William Dollarhide (Heritage Quest)

The Census Tables for the French Colony of Louisiana From 1699 Through 1732 by Charles R. Maduell Jr. (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

A Century of Population Growth from the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790-1900 by the Bureau of the Census (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists edited by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack and Erin Nevius (Family Tree Books)

Finding Answers in US Census Records by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Matthew Wright (Ancestry)

First Steps in Genealogy by Desmond Walls Allen (Betterway Books)

The Genealogist’s Census Pocket Reference by Allison Dolan (Family Tree Books)

Historical Statistics of the States of the United States compiled by Donald B. Dodd (Greenwood Publishing Group)

Indexes to Manufacturers’ Census of 1820: An Edited Printing of the Original Indexes and Information compiled by the National Archives (Bookmark)

Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000 (US Government Printing Office)

Population of States and Counties of the United States: 1790-1990, From the Twenty-One Decennial Censuses (US Government Printing Office)

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Ancestry)

State Census Records by Ann S. Lainhart (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

Your Guide to the Federal Census by Kathleen Hinckley (Betterway Books)

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