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US Census Genealogy Cheat Sheet


Census records are an essential genealogy source, and this quick reference is essential for finding your ancestors in the census. See at a glance what censuses exist for your ancestors’ states, where to find censuses on genealogy websites, and more. Newly updated to include the 1950 US census, released in 2022.


The US federal census is an important basic genealogy resource for American ancestors. The census tracks the entire population every 10 years since 1790, and records provide personal information like names, ages, birthplaces, family relationship, jobs, places of residence and more. Census records are widely available on genealogy websites like Ancestry, the free FamilySearch, MyHeritage and Findmypast.


You should search for every relative in your family tree, in every census taken during his or her lifetime. So you’ll want to keep this easy-to-use, quick-reference US Census Genealogy Cheat Sheet handy! It gives you key facts, tips and timelines for US census research:

  • Seven essential tips for searching census records and locating hard-to-find ancestors
  • The official census dates for censuses from 1790 to 1950
  • Why the census might have your ancestor’s name spelled wrong or his age off by a few years
  • The type of information collected about your ancestors during each census
  • Genealogy websites where you can search and view census records online
  • What happened to the 1890 census, and how to get over the resulting research brick walls
  • Glossary of terms and abbreviations found in census records
  • State-by-state listing of censuses with extant records—not just the decennial federal  census, but also colonial, territorial, state and local censuses
  • Sample census records so you’ll know what to expect as you view your ancestors’ census schedules
  • Resource listing of genealogy websites and books to help you locate and understand your ancestors’ census records

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