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11 April 2013

Census: How to begin a search

1940 U.S. Census. population schedule. Illinois, Will, Frankfort. E.D. 099-11. sheet 5B. William Kampe. National Archives. Washington, D.C. accessed 11 April 2012.   
For the genealogist, the U.S. federal population schedule census records are a major source of information. First, the family historian must remember that census information is restricted for 72 years. Second, federal enumeration was collected every 10 years. Third, most of the 1890 population schedule is not available. Fourth, genealogy was not the primary purpose for gathering census information. Fifth, the information should be used as a stepping stones to other records and research.

As will all research, the family historian must know basic information such as the surname, given name, and the person’s location for the census year. If this information is not known, a few resources include:
  • Family member or friend
  • Obituary
  • City directory
  • Historical telephone book
  • Personal papers
Search suggestions:

  • With the above information, search each census year starting with the current year and work backward.
  • Search one family at a time, if unable to find the family then start with another family
  • Download and/or print online census information for all surname spellings in an area
  • If using an online indexed database, download both the index page and the census page
  • Abstract research information into a genealogical software program or database
  • Cite all of your research sources
  • For more census information, read “Census Records” on the National Archives website.

Family offers tutorials and wiki information search under learn at the top of the home page.

What U.S. census questions do you have? Contact Selma Blackmon.

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