United States, How to Use Census Records

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The following sections are summaries of the "How to Use the Record" sections in the FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles.

About U. S. census records[edit | edit source]

  • Census records may identify persons for whom no other records exist.
  • Name indexes make it possible to access a specific death record quickly.
  • Indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings or misinterpretations. If the information was scanned, there may be character recognition errors.
  • The information in these records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
  • The type of information given may vary from one record to another record.

Find your ancestor’s census record (search strategy)[edit | edit source]

Follow these steps.

1. Find your ancestor in the index.

  • Note the locator information (such as page, entry, or certificate number) for the record.

2. Find your ancestor in the census.

  • Look for the page, entry, or certificate number (or other locator information) you found in the index.

3. Evaluate and record each piece of information you find for all members of the household.

To search the index, you need to know the following:[edit | edit source]

  • The name of the person.
  • The place of residence at the time of the census.

Tips for finding your ancestor:[edit | edit source]

  • Verify whether the name you found is your ancestor’s. Compare the information you know to the information you find. Look at relationships.
  • When looking for a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.

If you don’t find your ancestor in the index, do the following:[edit | edit source]

  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

Find other family members in the census[edit | edit source]

While you are searching census records, it is helpful to follow the same steps to find all related families who lived in the same time and place.

1. Look for:

  • Married family members who lived nearby but in a separate household. Search an entire town, neighboring towns, or even a county.
  • An earlier generation. Elderly parents may have been living with or close by a married child.
  • A younger generation. A young married couple may have lived with one of their sets of parents.
  • All members of a family. Do additional searches to make sure you locate all members of a family in the census.
  • All families with the same surname in the same general area. This is especially helps if the surname is uncommon; it is likely that those living in the same area were related.

2. Compile the individuals into families, with the appropriate parents. (Create family group records for the families.)

3. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.

Continue your research[edit | edit source]

Use the information you found to search other records. You can learn more about the same family or look for additional ancestors. Choose what you want to look for next.

If you know this information: Search for or do this:
Age (calculate a birth date) and place of birth Find a birth record. Look for information about the parents and their marriage.

Find a birth record. Look for information about other close relatives.
Birth places Look in birth places for former residences.

Establish a migration pattern for the family.
Race information Look for ethnic records, such as the Freedman’s Bureau or Indian censuses.
Naturalization information Find naturalization papers in the county court records.

Look for immigration records, such as passenger lists that are usually kept at the port of entry into the United States.
If a person was subject to military service Look for military files in the state or national archives.
Occupations Look for employment records.
Child listed as “at school” Look for school records.

Related Wiki Articles[edit | edit source]

Other Wiki Articles in this Series[edit | edit source]