Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

U.S. Census puts every American on the Map

Genealogists, especially those starting out, seem obsessed with U.S. Census records. It usually takes a new researcher some time to get over this obsession and move on to other records. But what I have always found interesting is although everyone seems to look for census records very early, few people use the records to suggest other areas of inquiry and research. In a class this week, I showed the participants a U.S. Census record and merely went across the various fields talking about the information. All of the participants seemed utterly amazed at the wealth of information, but on the other hand, not one of them could have suggested where to go next.

Google's video is quite misleading. The U.S. Census has never counted every person in the country. But the idea of using the U.S. Census records to get a "snapshot" of the country is a good idea for genealogists, although a little more in depth than the video would have you believe.

How many genealogists have ever looked at the U.S. Census Bureau's website in depth? The website is easy to remember. It is "" just like the Library of Congress is The website is very much slanted towards the currently available census data from the last few census records. But if you dig into the website, you can find the material dating back to the original U.S. Census in 1790. For example, there are pages with an overview of each of the censuses. See the 1790 Overview.

The U.S. Census website even has a specific section for Genealogy. The site includes the lists of questions for every U.S. Census, a list of all the State Censuses, references to other genealogical sources, and much, much more.

I suggest you start clicking around on the U.S. Census Bureau website. You might find something surprising, such as all the Enumeration District Maps. If you don't know the importance of these maps, perhaps you need to know a little more about the value of these and other records to genealogists.

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