Discovery Your Family History

Making Sense Of Censuses

The United States and many other countries keep population census records of people living in a given geographical area. The census is updated every ten years in the US. The U.S. federal census contains information on any given person who has lived or is now living. This information includes, but is not limited to: the family member’s name, date and place of birth, any jobs he or she has, or had previously, land ownership, and when he or she came to the United States, if not the original birth place. Since the census is updated every ten years, a person can look back at census information for several decades previously to gain valuable LDS family search information. You may want to also check the census records for your home state and surrounding states for further information about your family’s history.

 The reason census records were gathered in the United States was to give a count of all land-owners and their family members. The census also determines how many representatives are needed for each state. When the records were first created in 1790, only the names of the heads of the families were listed with marks that indicated the genders and ages of all other family members living in the house. However, since 1850, every family has been named, and the census records also list birth date and place, as well as other important details about each person.

 To begin your LDS family search with information from the censuses from 1850 to 1930, it is important to know the name of the relative you want to search for who was born before 1930, and any other information such as the state where he or she lived at the time, last name whether maiden or married name, etc. You can begin your search at that point. If the relative is or was an adult at that time, go backwards through the records for a list of the ancestor’s parents and other childhood information. Make note of the information relating to the parents and siblings of the ancestor you are searching for.

 To continue your LDS family search from this point, move backwards through the censuses for each of the ancestor’s parents to find their parents and so forth. Be sure to make any notes and make digital copies of the information to add to your family tree at a later time. If you are looking for an ancestor who was an unmarried female, look for the mother’s and father’s names, and the name of the oldest child born. If you are looking for information from the 1890 census, it is important to know that records for only 6000 of the approximately 62 citizens living in the U.S. at that time have been restored. The remaining census records were destroyed during a basement fire in the Commerce building in Washington DC. Although only 25 per cent of these records were destroyed in the fire itself, the rest were destroyed due to water damage.

 While conducting an LDS family search through censuses that were gathered prior to 1850, the search is more complicated because only the names of the heads of household were listed. Use the 1850 census as a guide to look for family members according to age and gender by dividing their markings into those categories. If you are unable to find information about ancestors from that time period, check to see if they were living with relatives, by looking for markings in your relatives’ household for more markings in particular age groups.

 However, if you are searching for census records after 1930, these records are unavailable due to laws that have been implemented to protect the privacy of each family living from 1930 to the present. Although in 2012, the 1940 census records were made available to a family member searching for information about his or her ancestors who lived during this time. The census records after 1940 are only available to the person or family whose name is on the census, or the person authorized to permit others to review this information. When conducting your search for census records, remember that a person’s name may have been transcribed incorrectly by the census record indexer, or the name spelling was changed, or a variation of a person’s name was given. There are several ways to search for census information about an ancestor. Hopefully you now have an understanding of how to make the best use of censuses during your research.

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