Federal Census Tips

Was your ancestor alive before 1940? No - move right Search the Social Security Death Index. Go to Social Security Death Index Tips.
Yes - move down
Have you found your ancestor in a census? Search the Federal Census. No - move right Review a guide on searching the Federal Census to make sure you have not overlooked something. Click here for the guide.
Yes - move down
Can you find your ancestor in a later census? Repeat this search until you cannot find your ancestor or you reach 1940. More... Next - move right Did you find your ancestor in the household of one of the children? No - move right Is likely your ancestor died before 1962? No - move right Search the Social Security Death Index. Go to Social Security Death Index Tips.
Yes - move down Yes - move down
Can you find your ancestor in a later census? Repeat this search until you cannot find your ancestor or you reach 1940. Next - move right Use the last known location as the place of death and estimate the year of death to order a death record. Go to Birth and Death Record Tips.
 
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Searching the Federal Census

If your ancestors were living in the United States between 1790 and 1940, you should be able to find them in the Federal Census. No other genealogy resource has coverage comparable to the Federal Census. Having censuses online has become a wonderful opportunity for people researching their ancestry.

You can now search all of the censuses by name. This significantly improves the chances of finding your ancestor if you are unsure of where the person was living at the time. 

You do not need to know the state and county to search. Before the census was online, you needed to guess the the state and county where your ancestor lived to use microfilm.

Be sure to search multiple census years. Once you find your ancestor, you can search every ten years until you cannot find your ancestor either in the same household or in the household of one of your ancestor's children. This will provide you with the likely approximate date and location of death for the purpose of ordering a death record.

There are two primary sources of census records online. One you need to pay for, but it is the best bargain around since searching the census online literally saves you hours and hours of searching the Internet or viewing microfilm of census records.

census Search Federal Census at Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com has indexed all the census years, so it is the most comprehensive source. Click here to search census records at Ancestry.com.
1880 census Search the census transcriptions and other records at FamilySearch.org. FamilySearch.org has an extensive collection of census and other records online. They are all free. Click here for free, online census transcriptions and other records at FamilySearch.org.
census article Free guide on using the Federal Census.
census forms Free Census extraction forms. Click here for free census extraction forms at Ancestry.com to record your census information.

Census Years and Availability Online

To check the census every ten years, it may be necessary to search both Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com online record collections. The table below shows searchable images that have been indexed. Each site has additional years that have yet to be indexed. The indexing is needed so you can search by name.

   Year   Available online at these locations
(see census above)
 
       Ancestry.com    FamilySearch.org  
   1940   x    
   1930   x   x  
   1920   x   x  
   1910   x   x  
   1900   x   x  
   1890 fragment   x      
   1880   x   x  
   1870   x   x  
   1860   x   x  
   1850   x   x  
   1840   x      
   1830   x      
   1820   x      
   1810   x      
   1800   x      
   1790   x      

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Advanced Research

This site is designed to provide the basics in researching your genealogy. It emphasizes the use of the Federal Census, Social Security Death Index, online family trees, and birth/death records. There are, of course, more sources of information. If you are looking for advice on additional sources, go to Genealogy Search Advice. That site will provide you with customized research advice based on what you already know about your ancestors.