A census is an official enumeration of the population in a particular area. In addition to counting the inhabitants of an area, the census generally collects other vital information, such as names, ages, citizenship status, and ethnic background. Each census can prove to be invaluable in painting a portrait of a family at a particular place and time.
Types of Records
The census collections include censuses for a variety of years and locations:
Canadian Census Records
Canadian Census Collection contains fully indexed censuses for the years 1911, 1906, 1901, and 1851, as well as the 1871 Ontario, Canada Census Index.Information
recorded on the census often includes: name of inhabitant, age, marital status, country of birth,
year of immigration, religion, employment, and residence. In most cases, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to actual images of the censuses located on the Library and Archives Canada website
United Kingdom Census Records
The United Kingdom census records include censuses for England, Wales, Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Censuses are available for these years:
1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901
United States Census Records
Censuses are available for these years:
1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850 (including slave schedules), 1860 (including slave schedules),
1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, census substitute, and veteran's schedules), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.
In addition, the census collections contain many censuses for individual American states and Canadian provinces.
The information in this section was taken from Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records, Wikipedia at <en.wikipedia.org>, and the Colorado Legislative Council.
- The word "census" is derived from the Latin word "censor," which was the title of the Roman official in charge of civil registration, taxation, public works, and public morality.
- The inhabitants of early Babylonia, Egypt, and China were regularly counted, or enumerated.
- The first census for the United States was taken in 1790.
- When taking the first census, workers provided their own paper, and information was submitted on paper ranging from four inches to three feet.
- The first census counted 3.9 million Americans, less than half the population of New York City in 2000.
- Enumerators write down the responses that are given to them; they are not authorized to ask for any kind of proof, such as birth, marriage, or property ownership records.
- In 1920, enumerators (census takers) were paid between one and four cents per person, depending on the urban or rural setting of the district to be counted.
- U.S. census results are used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. To avoid political manipulation, federal law requires the census be completed by means of an actual headcount, rather than a statistical estimate of the population.
Do you offer census extraction forms that show the questions asked in each census year?
Ancestry has free census extraction forms available online. Census extraction forms are doubly valuable: not only do they allow researchers to see the format and column headings for various census years (especially if the schedules themselves are hard to read), they also provide a clean and convenient method for extracting and filing important information you find. To access the forms, click here.
NOTE: You will need Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view these forms. If you do not have Acrobat Reader installed, you can download it for free.
What are the census indexes on Ancestry?
Census indexes do not include the complete census data, but they provide sufficient information to locate the individual in the original record. In this way they can save considerable research time. Most census indexes include the name of the head of the household, the location where they were living during the census year, and the page where their entry can be found on the original census records.
When viewing an individual record in a census index, you may notice that each record has an ID number included at the end of it. This number is used by Ancestry to identify each individual and to allow our programmers to correct errors quickly. This number has no genealogical value and will not refer you to additional records. The page number listed in a census index is simply the page number from the National Archives for the original census page where that individual can be found. To find more about the individual, you will want to look them up in original census records. Many libraries and family history centers have them available on microfilm and we have them available in our special Census Images Online feature. The page number will allow you to find the individual much more quickly in the images.
What do I do if I find an error in the census?
If you find an error in a census entry, or you have comments and suggestions to make, click the Comments and Corrections link on an individual's census page. Then, you can add alternate names, make comments, or report errors.
Why do some names in the census indexes have an asterisk (*) next to them?
Entries for which the indexer was unsure of the actual spelling are marked with one or more asterisks. Researchers finding asterisked entries should make sure they verify the index entry against the census schedules themselves.