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Clues In Census Records, 1850-1930

Experienced genealogical researchers use clues found in one record to find other records about the same individual. Below are some of the clues found in Census Records.

NOTE: The 1890 Federal Census records were destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC on January 10, 1921.

Date of Birth

  • The 1900 Census (column 7) indicates the person's month and year of birth; the 1850-1880 and 1910-1930 Censuses indicate the person's age.
  • The 1870 Census (column 13) and 1880 Census (column 7) indicate the month in which the person was born, if born within the year that is between June 1, 1869 and May 31, 1870 for the 1870 Census or June 1, 1879 and May 31, 1880 for the 1880 Census. The official census day was June 1 in both 1870 and 1880, although the enumerator may have visited the household at a later date.

While the person's age is not an exact date of birth, it at least provides a ballpark figure useful (1) for tracking the person from one census to the next, especially if other people have the same name, and (2) for locating the person in any existing Vital Records.

Place of Birth

  • The 1850-1930 Censuses indicate the person's state or country of birth, which helps narrow the geographic scope of search for the specific town of birth.

Date of Marriage

  • The 1850 Census (column 10), 1860 Census (column 11), 1870 Census (column 14), and 1880 Census (column 12) indicate whether the person had married within the year.
  • Within the year means during the year before the official census day; that is, between June 1, 1849 and May 31, 1850 for the 1850 Census, between June 1, 1859 and May 31, 1860 for the 1860 Census, between June 1, 1869 and May 31, 1870 for the 1870 Census, and between June 1, 1879 and May 31, 1880 for the 1880 Census. The official census day was June 1 in each of these census years, although the enumerator may have visited the household at a later date.
  • The 1900 Census (column 10) and 1910 Census (column 9) indicate the number of years of marriage for each married person.

Number of Children

  • The 1900 Census (column 11) and 1910 Census (column 10) indicate how many children were born to each woman. The 1900 Census (column 12) and 1910 Census (column 11) indicate how many of those children were still living. These clues can help determine whether the researcher has identified all children in a given family, and whether any were deceased when either census was taken.

Immigration

  • The 1900 Census (column 16), 1910 Census (column 15), 1920 Census (column 13), and 1930 Census (column 22) each indicate the person’s year of immigration to the United States. This information should help in locating a ship passenger arrival list.

Naturalization

  • The 1870 Census (column 19) has a check mark for Male Citizens of the U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards. If the person was a foreign-born citizen, this means that he had become naturalized by 1870.
  • The 1900 Census (column 18), the 1910 Census (column 16), 1920 Census (column 14), and 1930 Census (column 23) indicate the person’s naturalization status. The answers are Al for alien, Pa for first papers, and Na for naturalized.
  • The 1920 Census (column 15) indicates the year in which the person was naturalized.

These clues may lead to Naturalization Records.

Census forms allow researchers to see the format and column headings for various census years (especially if the schedules themselves are hard to read). They also provide a clean and convenient method for extracting and filing important information you find. If you are able to print out the census record, just attach it to the census form. The forms also provide a visual record of how the information has been collected over the years. View and download blank census forms at www.ancestry.com.

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