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Census: Genealogy

Guide to using the United States census products to find historical, genealogical, geographical, and statistical information.

Census Records Useful for Genealogists

Early census records can provide much personal historical and genealogical information, including the names of family members, years of birth, location of birth, and profession.

Since census information about specific individuals is not allowed to be released until 72 years after the census is taken, the latest census data on specific people is from 1940.

After the 72 years have passed, the Census Bureau transfers census records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA is responsible for making the records publicly available for viewing or purchase.

Individuals may request their own records (before they are publicly available) via the Census Bureau's Age Search service. This service provides individual information from censuses that are still protected by the 72-year rule, but only to the named person, his/her heirs, or legal representatives. There is a Congressionally-mandated fee for this service. Individuals interested in requesting a search of their personal census records must complete a form BC-600, Application for Search of Census Records.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints maintains an archive of microfilmed census records. This microfilm can be borrowed or viewed at LDS Family History Centers.

Heads of Families Lists at the UNT Libraries

The University of North Texas Libraries owns copies of selected Heads of Families lists published by the U.S. Census. They are on microfilm and are located in the Microforms Department. Printed indexes are also available. Census microfilm records not at UNT may be obtained for a fee through the National Archives and Records Administration's Microfilm Rental Program.

To use the census to locate information about a person, you must know his or her full name and the state or territory in which he or she lived at the time of the census. It is also helpful to know the full name of the head of the household in which the person lived, since census takers recorded information under that name.

You can use the soundex indexing system, a coded surname (last name) index based on the way a surname sounds rather than the way it is spelled, to find a surname even though it may have been recorded under various spellings.

We have Heads of Families lists for the following years and states:

  • 1790 - CT, ME, MD, MA, NH, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT (KY cataloged as 929.1 H364f)
  • 1800 - CT, DE, DC, ME, MA, NH, NY, NC, PA, RO, SC, VT
  • 1810 - CT, KY, LA, ME, MA, NH, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT
  • 1820 - CT, DE, DC, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, NH, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT
  • 1840 - TX (no microfilm copy—hardcopy is in Archives and Rare Books)
  • 1850 - TX, NM (TX cataloged as F385.C3 v. 1-5)
  • 1860 - TX, NM
  • 1870 - TX, NM
  • 1880 - TX
  • 1890 - TX (reel 3 only)
  • 1890 (special) - TX
  • 1900 - Census enumeration districts descriptions - RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT and VT (reel #9 only)
  • 1900 - Soundex - TX
  • 1900 - TX
  • 1910 - TX
  • 1920 - TX

Online Databases

Guides and Handbooks

These are some of the most popular guides to using census materials. For more guides, see the U.S. Census Bureau's Genealogy page and the National Archives and Records Administration's Census Records page.

Non-Census Records of Use to Genealogists

Additional Links