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Which US Federal Census Records Are Available and How Can They Help? Where Can You Find Them?

You want to start your Genealogy research, because you do not want to wait any longer to know about your family's history. And you keep hearing, check out the census records? And you are thinking, how can they help me? where do I even find them?

Census records, are a report that is administered by federal, state and local governments to give them information of the population. The US Federal Government does theirs every ten years, the last one was in 2020 and the next will be in 2030. Depending on the state or territory they may conduct one in between this time. There are also towns and cities that may conduct their own local censuses. Are these reports available to us? Yes they are, at least up to the 1950 census. The US Federal Census records become available after 70 years, due to privacy laws. You can get the following information, and this information can vary from census to census:

  • Names of the people in the household.

  • Relationship to the head of household.

  • Age

  • Race

  • Marital Status

  • What country they were born in and their parents.

  • Occupation

  • Earnings

  • Are they a veteran?

  • Can they read and write?

  • Up to what grade they completed.

  • 1900 & 1910 census, tells you how many years of marriage and how many children they had and how many were still living at that time.

  • When did your ancestor migrate from their country of origin and what is their status.

Puerto Rico was acquired by the US in 1898, but the first census conducted in Puerto Rico was in 1910. The following are the US census records available for Puerto Rico:

  • 1910

  • 1920

  • 1930

  • 1935-1935, Special Agricultural Census was done for Puerto Rico, but they also included population information.

  • 1940

  • 1950

The Panama Canal Zone was also is included in the US Federal Census for the following years:

  • 1920

  • 1930

  • 1940

But if your Ancestor came to the US before this time, US Census records go back to 1790, but the 1850 census is the first one that actually listed the members of household. Also the 1890 census was mostly burnt in a fire so you would most likely not find information for this one, so the next one you want to look into is the 1900 census.

Where can you find the census records?

Cautionary Tales of the Census Records:

1. When our Ancestors came to the US most started to use one last name, they may appear under their first last name but also may appear under their second last name. Many times the first last name was confused to be a middle name.

2. Our female Ancestors if they were married will start to appear in the US records under their husband's last name.

3. If you know the town your Ancestor lived don't rule out having to go into the collection and going by image to find them, if their names were not indexed correctly, they will not pull up in the search.

Are their census records available from before 1898, when Puerto Rico was colonized by Spain? Yes there are some available online, through Family Search, and be on the look out for my next blog where I will provide the information for these.

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