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USGenWeb Free Census Project Help, HISTORY of the United States - Federal Census, 1790-1920

The Census is a requirement from the Constitution of the United States. This requirement states that a census be conducted every ten years [at least] for proper apportioning of taxes and Congressional Representatives.

During the years 1790 to 1840, only the heads of families [households] were listed by name. Remember that family members can include grandparents, aunts, uncles, other relatives, boarders, hired workers, friends, etc.

| 1790 | 1800 | 1810 | 1820 | 1830 | 1840 | 1850 | 1860 | 1870 | 1880 |
| 1890 | 1900 | 1910 | 1920 |

The first United States Census was a population count that began in 1790. About one-third of that census has been lost. The schedules that are still available are: Connecticut, Maine [then part of Massachusetts], Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont.

The process of counting the population began August 2, 1790 under the authority of [then] Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. This process lasted about eighteen months. Fewer than 4 million people lived in the United States in 1790, but they were scattered throughout a largely undeveloped country. Seventeen United States Marshals hired as many assistants as deemed necessary to travel on horseback to ride through the countryside to count most of the population. Many people refused to cooperate because they did not know why the government needed this personal information.

No schedules exist for Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Tennessee or Virginia (although reconstructed from tax records). Those that do not exist were burned by the British during the War of 1812. The Census was taken in Rhode Island on 7-5-1790 and in Vermont on 3-2-1791, after they ratified the constitution. There was a printed form for Massachusetts but other states did not have printed forms.

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The 1800 Census survived for the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont. This Census was obtained on the first monday in August, 1800 [Census Day].

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The 1810 Census survived for the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia [includes present day West Virginia]. This Census was obtained on the first monday in August, 1810 [Census Day].

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The 1820 Census survived for the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia [includes present day West Virginia]. This Census was obtained on the first monday in August, 1820 [Census Day].

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The 1830 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1830 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived with the exception of the following counties [lost or destroyed]: Indiana - Wabash; Maryland - Montgomery, Prince George's, St. Mary's, Queen Anne's, and Somerset; South Carolina - Clarendon District.

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The 1840 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1840 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived with the exception of the following counties [lost or destroyed]: Mississippi - Pike; South Carolina - Clarendon District.

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The 1850 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1850 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived with the exception of the following counties [lost or destroyed]: California - Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara. There were separate slave schedules for this year.

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The 1860 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1860 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived with the exception of the following counties [lost or destroyed]: Arkansas - Indian Lands, Little River; Florida - Hernando; Louisiana - Bienville Parish; Mississippi - Hancock, Sunflower, Washington; Texas - Blanco, Coleman, Concho, Dubal, Edwards, Hardeman, Kimble, Knox, LaSalle, McCullock, McMullen, Tarrant, Taylor, Wichita, Wilbarger, and Wilson; Washington - Benton, Columbia, San Juan, Snonomish, and Stevens. There were separate slave schedules for this year.

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The 1870 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1870 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived with the exception of the following counties [lost or destroyed]: Idaho - Kootenai; Kansas - Arapahoe; Texas - Archer, Baylor, Concho, Edwards, Hardeman, Knox, Taylor, Wichita and Willbarger; Washington - Benton, Columbia and San Juan.

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The 1880 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1880 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived. The Soundex System was introduced in this year. The Soundex is a phonetic index in which surnames are grouped by how they sound rather than how they are spelled. The 1880 Soundex only includes families with children age 10 years or younger. Families without children in that age grouping do not appear on the Soundex but are included in the census forms.

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The 1890 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1890 [Census Day]. Almost all records for this census were destroyed in a fire in 1921. Small parts remain from Alabama, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. These contain approximately 6,160 names so the chance of finding your family is remote but not impossible.

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The 1900 Census was obtained on the first monday in June 1, 1900 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived and is completely indexed using the Soundex system.

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The 1910 Census was obtained on the first monday in April 15, 1910 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived. Only the following states were indexed using the Soundex system: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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The 1920 Census was obtained on the first monday in January 1, 1920 [Census Day]. Records for all states survived and is completely indexed using the Soundex system. Included in this are the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, the Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands.

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Census Project since 1997

A Gift of the Past for the Future! Started in February, 1997, The USGenWeb Free Census Project is an all-volunteer project to transcribe census records in a standard format in order to make them available to genealogical researchers on the Internet.

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