Monday, October 29, 2012

Census Tips - Reading the Whole Entry

US Census records are one of the first places most people start looking for family information.  These records are available through a variety of resources including paid subscriptions such as as well as through free services like

Whenever possible, try to look at the original images of census records rather than just a listing in a database because the actual record image contains a variety of information recorded for the people listed.  Each census year sought to gather specific information so you can learn a lot about your ancestors by reading all the data recorded for them in several census years.  Here are some of the things you could learn by reading the entire entry for GreatGrandfather Jones in different census years:
  • name of the street and house number where he lived (then use Google Earth to see what that address looks like today)
  • age at time of the census, month and year of birth
  • marital status including how long he had been married
  • number of births and live children of his wife
  • occupation, sometimes name of employer
  • immigration and naturalization information
  • education and literacy information
  • veteran status
  • value of real estate with references to farm schedules and slave holdings
Taking those few extra minutes to read the entire entry for an ancestor can supply information that provides a fuller picture of that individual.  After all, family history isn't just about birth and death dates, it is about the "dash", what happened during a person's life.

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