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Where Is It? Microfilmed census records can be
found in several libraries and in other places

Family History Centers (operated by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints) provide access to a complete selection of Census records that includes every state and every federal census available.

Although the microfilm is housed primarily in the main library in Utah, Family History Centers are housed in many churches all over the United States and people of all faiths are welcome to use the vast collection of genealogical materials collected by the church.

The size and locality of the records housed at FHC varies, with a focus on the surrounding areas. But there is often a variety of records from others parts of the country as well. If the microfilm you need is not on the premises, it can be rented for a nominal fee from the library in Utah. Workers at the library will assist you in the process.

County public libraries also keep census records. They can be found in books as well as microfilm. Many states have indexes for each census year. These records can be viewed by the public and are usual kept in the "Local History" or "Genealogy" section of the library.

There is always someone on at the library who can help you find the materials you need. Census information for other areas in the region can often be found in county libraries, too. However, few, if any, house records for the country.

Generally, in-house records are indigenous to the area. These libraries often have a way to order additional microfilm from an outside source for a nominal fee.

The Federal Archives and Record Center makes available all federal Census records as well as many other records housed in the National Archives. You can write and request a list of available records.

There are also several companies not affiliated with libraries that make Census records available to rent or purchase. Advertisements for these sources can be found in most genealogical publications.

Getting Started

First, write down what you already know. With this information in hand, you can start your journey through census records.

It is always best to start with the more recent
census records and work your way back to earlier records.

The more recent the record, the more information. The 1920 census is the most recent one available at this time. If you are not new to genealogy, but new to the census, you may want to start with the 1900 census. It is a fairly complete record and has been Soundexed (see Soundex).

Not only were newborn babies included in the census, the very elderly were included also. Many people born in the early 1800's were still alive and recorded in the 1900 census. Don't overlook any possibilities! Always look for all pertinent surnames in each census record you check.

It is always wise to look at a minimum of 10 families before and ten families after your ancestor's census listing. Often related families lived nearby. Even wiser is to look at the whole county while you have the records available. Don't forget to be on the lookout for surnames connected by marriage. (Your grandmother's sister probably married and has a different surname.)

There are blank census forms available at LDS Family History Centers and many county libraries. (Some publications have them for sale also.) Take the blank forms with you when you view the census. You can record everything that's on the census, just as you see it written.

This will give you a permanent addition to your files, which you can review at any time in the future to refresh your memory. Some libraries have machines that can make copies of selected pages for a small fee as you view them, but many don't. It's better to go to the library prepared, with blank forms in hand.

Back to US Census guide

Copyright 1995-2007 by Robert Ragan - All Rights Reserved.