state census records, New York State census

Fill in the Census Records Research Gaps

Utilizing census records are a fundamental resource for any genealogists. There are two situations discussed here where the federal census records leave information gaps. Namely, when you’re searching for a relative before the federal census of 1790, and when you can’t find someone you know should show up on a federal census.

A relative who predates the 1790 census

If you’re searching for your relative that you know lived in the US by or before 1790, Evarts B. Greene and Virginia D. Harrington’s American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790 is a crucial resource. Many books have lost their informational value as their contents have been mined and placed online. However, this book, which refers to about 4,000 separate population lists or estimates, is still the most accurate and exhaustive reference for the period.

The recipients of a social science research grant, Columbia University scholars Greene and Harrington set about to compile a list of every 17th- and 18th-century list (or statistical reference thereto) concerning the American population before the first U.S. census of 1790. Consulting both primary and secondary sources, the end result of their labors was a comprehensive survey, arranged by colony, state, or territory–and chronologically thereunder–of population lists for all units of American government in existence as of 1790.

The lists in American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790 themselves range from poll lists, tax lists, taxables, militia lists, and censuses; the book’s geographical coverage extends to Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, the Illinois Territory, and the Northern and Southern Departments of the Western Indians. Continue reading…

census records and county boundary changes

Census Records and County Boundary Changes

Editor’s note: The following post on the importance of knowing the county in order to properly utilize census records, and how shifting boundaries can affect that search, is written by author William Dollarhide. An excellent source that can be used to visualize the county boundaries for every county in the U.S. and for each census year is the book by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. This book has 393 maps showing each applicable census year and all county boundary changes from 1790 to 1920. Each map shows both the old boundaries and the modern boundaries for each state and census year, so a comparison can be made. 

Census Records and County Boundary Changes

All censuses taken since 1790 are tabulated and organized by the counties within each state or territory. By federal precedence, the county is the basic unit of jurisdiction for census demographics. Alaska is the only state without counties; therefore, judicial districts are used as jurisdictions for the censuses taken there. In Louisiana, the term “parish” is used in the same way as “county” in other states. Even in the New England states–where a town may have more importance than a county as a genealogical resource–censuses are organized by county.

Interestingly, Connecticut abolished county government in 1960. All county functions were taken over by the towns or by the state, except that the county boundaries were retained expressly for the purpose of taking a census and certain other statistical studies based on a county, rather than town boundaries. Continue reading…

Census, Soundex

Using Soundex

Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from Emily Croom’s bestselling Unpuzzling Your Past. 4th Edition Expanded, Updated and Revised, an invaluable guide which provides all the tools you need to begin your family research. More information about Ms. Croom’s book can be found at the end of this article.

In the following, Ms. Croom discusses how to utilize the Soundex code for genealogical research, which states have the information for specific census years, as well as issues you may encounter in your research.

The 1880, 1900, and 1920 federal censuses and parts of the 1910 and 1930 censuses are indexed by state using a code based on the sounds in surnames. This indexing system is called Soundex. It is most often available as microfilm of the cards on which basic census information was written . . . . The Soundex is especially useful when you do not know specifically where the family was living in the census year. It will tell you their county and community and where you can find them on the census.

One drawback of the 1880 Soundex is that it includes only households with children age ten and under. If Great-Grandpa’s children were already over age ten by 1880, you cannot find him in the Soundex unless he lived with a family that included young children.

States with 1910 Soundex (or Miracode, a Similar System)

Alabama          Illinois             Mississippi                 Pennsylvania

Arkansas         Kansas           Missouri                     South Carolina

California        Kentucky        North Carolina            Tennessee

Florida             Louisiana         Ohio                            Texas

Georgia            Michigan         Oklahoma                    Virginia

West Virginia                                                                                    Continue reading…

federal census record photo

State Census Records

What first comes to mind when genealogists think of census records are the federal censuses that are constitutionally mandated and occur every ten years. The purpose of the federal census is to count the number of people living in the United States in order to apportion Congressional districts. For the first censuses, which began in 1790, getting a head count of people is really all it did. In the early years, from 1790-1840, only the head of household is listed and the number of household members in selected age groups. Beginning in 1850 and continuing through the 1940 census, details are provided for all individuals in each household, such as names of family members; their ages at that certain point in time; their state or country of birth; their parent’s birthplaces; year of immigration; marriage status; occupation(s); etc. Not all of this information is available for every person in every census, however. As years passed, the census became a way to gather even more data about the nation, such as health, housing, employment, growth, and other statistics.

State censuses, because they were taken randomly, remain a much under-utilized resource in American genealogy. State census records not only serve as a substitute for some of the missing 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1890 federal censuses, but they are also valuable population enumerations. State censuses are also important resources because some states asked different questions than the federal census and they were opened to the public faster; some state censuses taken as recently as 1945 are already available.

1905 kansas state census record

From the Census.gov website: “The Kansas State Board of Agriculture conducted a census
of the state in 1905 (questionnaire above). The census collected the names of all members of household and their age, sex, race or color, and state or country of birth. The census also collected information about members’ state or
country of origin and military service.”

 

To find out what state censuses exist, what kinds of information they contain, and importantly, where they can be found, reference Ann Lainhart’s first comprehensive list of state census records ever published. State by state, year by year, country by county and district by district, this reference publication is the definitive guide to state census records, even used as source information on the government’s census website.

 

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, 1920 Census Kennedy Carr; Census.gov, State Censuses.