Spanish censuses are considerably better in detail than their English-language counterparts, normally identifying the head of household by name and surname with occupation and material status and age, and then providing for the household a list of all other members by name, frequently with ages and relationships to the head of household. Census records were taken primarily for population studies, taxation, military purposes, or taxing in behalf of the parish poor. Some censuses were taken to enumerate specific categories of individuals, such as all resident aliens however.
Many census (censo) records exist for Colombia during the colonial period. The first of these are from Espiritu Santo, Cundinamarca and Mérida, Tunja in 1586; followed by a Bogotá, Cundinamarca census in 1595. Throughout the 17th and 18th century, many censuses were taken at various local and provincial levels. Major censuses occured in 1776-1777 and the 1790's. To see a complete listing and references see Lyman D. Platt's book, "Census Records for the Latin America and the Hispanic United States." Almost all of these records (with a few exceptions listed below) are located in the Archivo General de la Nación.
- 1786-1787 census of Medellín, Antioquía is located in the Archivo Histórico de Antioquia, Colombia.
- 1756 census of Veraguas, Panamá, Colombia is located in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain.
Census records available from this period by microfilm include:
The first national census of Colombia occured in 1812, followed by ones taken in 1825, 1835, 1843, 1851, 1905, 1912, and 1920. All of the 19th century censuses are located in the Archivo General de la Nación, while the 20th century records are located in the Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Censuses have also been taken in 1918, 1938, 1951, 1964, 1973, and 1985.
Another source of information that are similar in information to census records are padrones. These are lists of parishioners compiled by the Catholic Church. These follow no particular pattern or any regularity, but more are available online on FamilySearch or through microfilm than the actual census records.
Microfilms can be searched for under Registros parroquiales, 1580-1944
Notes About Researching Censuses
Researching census records in Colombia is difficult unless you are able to visit the Archivo General de la Nación in Bogotá. Even there, many of the records lack any system of organization. The census information, even of long deceased individuals, is viewed as being private and requests for information are seen as suspicious. Also, in many cases, only the statistical information remains and the original census returns have been destroyed or forgotten.
Platt, L. (1998). Census records for latin america and the hispanic united states. Baltimore:Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc.