from the Library of Congress

The census can be one of the most rewarding genealogical resources.  Not only can the name of your ancestors be found but you can also see little glimpses into their lives.  Many people are unaware of how beneficial a census record can be.

 When many people locate their relatives they look at the first couple lines, name and age; they do not realize the wealth of information the other lines can hold.  Reading through the other lines can help give clues for further research. Did your ancestor own land? If he did you now know to look for land records for the area he lived, but if he did not claim land ownership you now know to save land records till the end of your research. Maybe you have never found a record for children born to a relative, but when you looked at the 1900 census the mother lists 11 children who died in infancy. Or you have not been able to find records for your relative’s parents, but by looking at where the informant lists their parents as being born in, you now have a starting place to begin your research.

These examples only skim the top of the many examples of help a census can give.  Some others are but not limited to:

  • Names head of household and household members
  • Land owned
  • Schooling
  • Occupation
  • Color/race
  • Years married
  • Number of children alive/dead
  • Year of birth
  • Marriage year
  • Birthplace (state or country)
  • Birth place of parents

A federal population census is not the only census resource; mortality schedules, state censuses, veteran schedules, Indian schedules, slave schedules, and agriculture schedules, were also taken. These other options contain information that are not found on a federal census; for example mortality schedules contain the names of the people who have died in the last 12 months, their age, month of death, occupation and cause of death.

Through censuses we can learn so much from our ancestors if we just choose to read all of the information they have given to us.

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