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Factfinder for the Nation: Availability of Census Records About Individuals

Report Number CFF No. 2 [Revised]


The United States population census records contain a wealth of information about people. They are useful in learning about one’s family and local social and economic conditions at various times in history. For more recent years especially, they are official documents for persons who need to prove their age (in the absence of a birth certificate), relationship, citizenship, residence, and other facts in order to qualify for pensions; get jobs, naturalization papers, passports, or insurance policies; establish an inheritance; or trace ancestry. There was a population census taken in 1790 and every tenth year after that. (Page 3 lists the items covered in the existing censuses for each year.) The U.S. Census Bureau publication, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000 (Washington, DC, 2002) provides a history of each census and reproduces the questionnaires and instructions given to enumerators for taking each census.

This Factfinder explains what census materials are available and how to obtain them and also lists the sources for some other useful records about individuals.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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