Sunday, February 5, 2012



The United States has conducted the Federal Population Census every 10 years since 1790 as mandated by the Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution which reads as follows:

[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

Congress first met in 1789, and thus the first national census was held in 1790. To date, there have been 23 such enumerations that have been taken as of the year 2010. This represents 220 years or roughly 9-10 generations of citizens that have been counted in the census.

However, inclusion of the majority of African Americans, Native Americans and other non-white persons did not occur until the year 1870, 5 years after the official end of the slavery and the end of the civil war. However, as a Genealogist I advise people to look at the prior years also because your ancestor may have been what was known as a Free Person of Color and therefore included in the count. Also, African Americans should not to assume that all of their relatives were of African or African American descent.

What can you expect to find in the Census? Although, early census records contain less information than the latter ones, you can still find a lot of useful facts about your ancestors. You can learn information such as their name, spouse, other family and household members, neighbors, age, approximate date of birth, occupation, birth place of the individual, family members and their parents, whether they owned land or rented, and whether not they could read or write.

Where can be find census records? You can assess census records on a number of online websites such as,, and to name a few.

Below is sample close up view of a census record from 1870.

Click to enlarge

The arrow points to the Head of Household, Willaim Springs who is listed in the first space. According to the record, he is a 36 years old male Black who is a Farm Laborer born in South Carolina.

Below is a blank 1870 census that you can click to view questions that were asked:

Karen Burney
The Roots Exchange and Education Society (TREES

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