United States Census, 1790 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Collection Time Period
The U.S. federal census was conducted each decade from 1790 to the present. This information pertains to censuses conducted in 1790.
Population schedules consisted of large sheets with rows and columns. The schedules were arranged by place, such as township or post office. The places were not filed in any particular order. The arrangement of families on a schedule is normally in the order in which the enumerator visited the households. The original schedules are well preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. They were microfilmed in the 1950s and 1960s. The schedules for some counties in varying censuses are missing.
The schedules for some counties are missing in the 1790 census and no schedules are known to exist for the following states in 1790:
- New Jersey
The 1790 census includes the following genealogical information:
- Full name of the head of household
- Number of free white males and females in each household
- Number of free white persons in an age-group (use this to calculate approximate birth years—males only for 1790)
- Number of slaves in each household
- Number of all other persons in each household
- Town, township, or post office of residence
How to Use the Record
The U.S. federal census is the best source for quickly identifying the head of a household and may also identify persons for whom other records do not exist. However, you must know the name of an ancestor and sometimes the variant spellings of that name to search for a census entry.
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the census index. (Nationwide name indexes may be able to help you locate your ancestor even when you do not know the place of residence.) Use the locator information in the index (such as page number or family number) to locate your ancestors in the census. Compare the information in the census to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination. Be aware that as with any index, transcription errors may occur.
When you have located your ancestor in the census, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them.
You should follow the family through each available census. Again, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. For example:
- Use the age categories to determine an approximate birth date range.
- Use the residence to locate other records such as land, probate, tax, and church records.
It is often helpful to extract the information on all families with the same surname in the same general area. If the surname is uncommon, it is likely that those living in the same area were related.
Be sure to extract all families before you look at other records. Put the information you know infor family groupings. The family groupings will help you identify related families when you discover additional information in other records.
Some other helpful tips to keep in mind are:
- Married family members may have lived nearby but in a separate household so you may want to search an entire town, neighboring towns, or even an entire county.
- You may be able to identify an earlier generation if elderly parents were living with or close by a married child.
- You may be able to identify a younger generation if a young married couple still lived with one of their sets of parents.
- Additional searches may be needed to locate all members of a particular family in the census.
Federal census takers were asked to record information about every person who was in each household on the census day, which was the first Monday in August for 1790. A census taker might have visited a house on a later date, but the information he collected was supposed to be about the people who were in the house on the census day. The basic census enumeration unit was the county. Each county was divided into enumeration districts, one for each enumerator. The completed forms were sent to the Commerce Department’s Census Office in Washington, D.C.
This census (1790) provides names for heads of household, for about 10 to 15 percent of the population, and provide only a number count for the others.
Why This Record Was Created
The U.S. federal census was taken at the beginning of every decade to apportion the number of representatives that a state could send to the House of Representatives.
Federal censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator. Information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or by a neighbor. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.
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Examples of citations:
"United States Census, 1790" index and images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 7 October 2011). entry for Alpheas Harmon, residence Rupert, Bennington, Vermont; citing Census Records, FHL microfilm 0,568,125; National Archives, United States Federal Archives and Records Center, Washington, D.C., United States.
Sources of Information For This Collection
“United States Census, 1790” database, FamilySearch, (http://familysearch.org/); from National Archives. United States Federal Archives and Records Center, Washington D.C. FHL digital index. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
We welcome your assistance in adding source citation information for individual archives when collection data was collected from various sources or archives. The format for citing FamilySearch Historical Collections, including how to cite individual archives is found in the following link: Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections