Making the Most of the US Federal Census
The US Federal Census is a go-to resource for family historians and may be the first record set you turn to as a researcher. Like most records, however, it wasn’t designed with genealogists in mind. The census isn’t as precise as we hope it to be and as researchers, we often make assumptions regarding the information provided. This five-week course will delve into the ins and outs of the US Federal Census, providing you with the full context of population and non-population schedules and helping you use census records (from 1790 to 1950) more fully and more accurately.
Class 1: A History of the Census for Family Historians
To truly understand the information provided on any record, you must first understand the record’s context: who provided the information, who recorded the information, and for what purpose. And, in the case of the US Federal Census, you also need to understand which copy of the census you’re viewing online or at a repository. This first class will provide you with a critical understanding of the census and a solid foundation ensuring success in your future research.
Class 2: Using the Early Census: 1790–1840
Our country’s earliest censuses (1790–1840) provided only the name of the head of household with tick marks for others in the family and thus, are often overlooked by researchers. Nevertheless, these “Head of Household” census records can provide valuable information about your ancestors, their extended family, and other residents in the home. This class will provide the historical background of the tabulation process, what records survive, enumeration questions (by year), and strategies for using these early censuses to break down brick walls.
Class 3: Using the Modern Census: 1850–1950
The 1850 census marks the first time every person in the household was enumerated by name. It also recorded such factors as immigration, education, income, and ethnicity, providing researchers with in-depth information about ancestors. This class will delve more deeply into these “modern” censuses, providing information on how the information was gathered, what questions were asked and are most helpful to genealogists, and how the information provided can springboard your research to other areas and records.
Class 4: Getting the Most from Non-Population schedules
When most family historians think about the census, we think of the population schedule—the enumeration of individuals living within a household. But there is so much more to the Federal Census that many researchers overlook! In this class, we will discuss how mortality, agriculture, manufacturing, business, and other social statistics schedules can be used in your genealogical research.
Class 5: Finding and Utilizing Census Substitutes
When a census record comes up short—or worse, is missing—we need to turn to other records that provide similar information. In this final class, Lindsay Fulton will discuss essential census record substitutes such as vital and church records, city directories, tax lists, voter lists, and more.