Federal Census Information

And some things I wish I had known to begin with

A little something from a family researcher to another.
Copy it, share it, and if you find mistakes, forgive please.
Happy hunting, cousins all!

Janell McCann

September 1987
Revised March 1995


1790 Beginning August 2, 1790 to be completed within 9 months.
1800 Beginning August 4, 1800 to be completed within 9 months.
1810 Beginning August 6, 1810 to be completed within 9 months.
1820 Beginning August 7, 1820 to be completed within 6 months.
1830 Beginning June 1, 1830 to be completed within 6 months.
1840 Beginning June 1, 1840 to be completed within 10 months.
1850 Beginning June 1, 1850
1860 Beginning June 1, 1860
1870 Beginning June 1, 1870
1880 Beginning June 7, 1880
1890 Union Veterans of the Civil War - Extant records for States Kentucky through Wyoming. Kentucky is incomplete.

I do not have dates for later censuses. There are also State census one might inquire about at their local library, Federal Archives or a LDS Library.


This is a method of locating persons by their surname, then given names or initials. The code is designed by the way names can or could sound, so the following is a chart of the letters given numbers based on sound.

Code No. Key Letters    
1    b p f v ) These are letters that
follow the first letter
of the surname.
2    c s k g j q x z )
3    d t )
4    l )
5    m n )
6    r )

First strike out all vowels and the letters "h", "y", and the 2nd of any double consonants (or 2 of the same value) in the surname. Also strike out the letter "w" that is not the first letter in the surname.

Next Print the First Consonant of the Surname.

Then find the corresponding number to the 3rd, 4th and 5th consonants and put them behind the First consonant. Use the number "0" for any consonants you may be lacking.




There will never be more than 3 numbers following the first letter of the surname.

1880: The soundex did not list persons who had no children in the house under 0 years of age.

Once you find the surname, the given names are in alphabetical order, including initials. Write down the Enumeration District, Page or Sheet number, and all other data on the soundex card. Then you can use this information to find the person on the microfilm. The information is at the top of the page for the Enumeration District, etc.

It is a federal law, known as the privacy act, that only permits federal census information to become available to the public after it is 73 years old. However, you may inquire at the Social Security Office for a form to obtain copies of later censuses on yourself and family. You may send the forms to the Federal Census Bureau.

Do not be disturbed if ages and other information varies from one census to another. Remember we do not know who was giving the information, or the one doing the writing. Phonetic spelling is most common. There are several sources for census records available. One is published by the Federal Government. Ask the librarian to see a copy. It will tell you many sources of information. Military records, Indian records and many others are available through the Federal Archives. Some of these books are free.

These are just a few details regarding the uses of census records. Some other records that are useful are court records, which may be municipal, county, state or federal. Check them all out, particularly if there was a suit regarding the settlement of an estate. Some were appealed up to the state level.