A census is a count and description of a population. A well-indexed census is one of the easiest ways to locate where ancestors lived and to identify the dates when they lived there so that you can search other records. Church census records give the name of the ward or branch where a family’s Church records or civil records may be found.
Utah Bishops’ Report (1852–1853)
In the winter of 1852–1853 the bishops of Utah took a census. They recorded the name of the head of each family in their ward or branch:
Registry of Names of Persons Residing in the Various Wards as to Bishops’ Reports, 1852–1853. Typescript, [19--?] (Family History Library book 979.2 K2r; film 823831; fiche 6051208). Although it is incomplete, this names the head of each family alphabetically and lists which ward they attended. This is indexed in the Early Church Information File.
Church Censuses (1914–1960)
The Church took censuses to track members and Church growth throughout the world. The first Church wide census was taken in 1914. Beginning in 1920, the Church took a census every five years until 1960, except 1945. These census records were compiled in:
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church Census Records, 1914–1960. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1962. (On 651 Family History Library films starting with 025708). Arranged alphabetically by the name of the head of the household. The five censuses for 1914 to 1935 were combined and microfilmed. There is a supplement for cards sent in late. The 1940 census was filmed separately with two supplemental films. The 1950, 1955, and 1960 censuses were filmed together.
Information in Church censuses consists of a card with information about each family in a ward or branch. Each person in the household is listed on the family card with their gender, age, priesthood office, and marital status. Each time the census was taken, additional information was included:
- 1914 This census shows the geographical regions that were marked to show where each person was born; the family’s address; the name of the ward or branch, stake, or mission the person attended; and date of the census.
- 1920 This census added the maiden name of married women, year of birth of each person, and the Church auxiliaries each person attended.
- 1925 The complete birth date is included. The columns for auxiliaries are deleted.
- 1930 This census adds the exact place of birth. Cards for the Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and parts of Maryland also provide the baptism date, the name of the person who performed the baptism, and place of baptism.
- 1935 This census adds the previous ward or branch the family attended.
- 1940 This census adds the family’s previous street address, and the date when the family moved to their present address.
- 1945 No Church census was taken because of World War II.
- 1950, 1955, and 1960 These censuses show the same information as the 1940 census.
If you cannot find a family on a Church census try these strategies:
- Look for variant spellings of the surname.
- Look for the wife as the head of household.
- Check the supplemental films.
If you still cannot find the family, it may be because:
- Some Church units did not participate.
- The census taker may have missed the family.
Civil Census Records
Many early federal and territorial censuses for Utah may list a member’s ward or branch. Later censuses give each person’s address. With the address, you can determine which ward the person attended by using the sources listed in LDS Historical Geography. For a detailed explanation of Utah census records, please see Utah Census.
Many other state, provincial, and national governments also took censuses. For more information about these censuses see the "Census" Wiki article for the state, province, or nation in which your ancestor lived.