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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters-Tracing Women  by Lisa Alzo, M.F.A.. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Census Records

Turn to the census to find out where your female ancestor put down roots in the New World. Census records (depending on the year) will give details about the woman. Check for age at last birthday, but note that age discrepancies between census years are common. Note children’s names. Always copy the full page and note the neighbors. In rare instances a census taker may have identified the maiden name of each woman. Some examples include the Albany, New York 1855 and Iowa 1925 state census. In the U.S. federal census, the years 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930, list birthplace for mother and father. In addition, the 1900 U.S. census identifies the number of children given birth to by the wife, and the number living when the census was taken. Census records for 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 list the year of immigration.

A good place to begin is with online Census Records collections available via subscription through ( and (

If your female ancestor lived in Canada, you should consult Library and Archives Canada website ( for information about available Canadian census records. The Canadian census includes the religion of every person named in the census. Portions of the 1851 Census have not survived. Census records after 1916 have been microfilmed and are in the custody of Statistics Canada, not the Library and Archives Canada. These records are still closed under the Statistics Act, which contains strict confidentiality provisions that protect the information indefinitely.

Use a research log or spreadsheets to keep track of the family from one census to the next. A great resource can be found at Census Tools at

Also, remember that by tracing the husband you can find information on the wife. Also-don’t forget collateral kin and neighbors, they can lead to additional information and sources.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters-Tracing Women offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.