No genealogist would be surprised to hear that U.S. federal census records are the most-used records for U.S. family history research. Population schedules are a great source for determining the location of a family unit in each decade. Beginning in 1850, every name is listed on the population schedule, as is place of birth. Slave owners are listed, and slaves are enumerated by quantity, gender, and age on the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules. More information is included on subsequent censuses. The 1880 population schedule includes the relationship of individuals in the household to one another. The year of arrival in the United States and naturalization status are included on 1900 to 1930 population schedules. The details available on the census documents can be very helpful, even though many of the documents microfilmed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are transcriptions of the original enumeration sheets.
The microfilmed population schedules (1790-1930 and 1885 for 6 states and territories), slave schedules (1850-1860), mortality schedules (1850-1880), Surviving [Union] Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, and Widows, etc. schedule (1890), and Indian census schedules (1885-1940) have all been digitized and are available in whole or in part at Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com), Footnote.com (www.footnote.com), FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org), and HeritageQuest Online (available through libraries). None of these, however, can claim to provide all of the available U.S. federal census records. And why not?
The Other Federal Census Documents
There are seven additional types of census documents existing in some form, paper or microfilm, that have not been digitized, indexed, and made available online. They contain essential information that we can find helpful. Most of these can be accessed with microfilm at NARA sites, or film can be ordered for use through and at your nearest Family History Center. Let’s explore these different records.
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