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Federal Census: Background & History

In short, the federal census was taken every ten years, beginning with 1790.

For research purposes, the population censuses can be divided into four groups: 1790-1840, 1850-1870, 1880, and 1900-1950.

Researchers should note that most of the 1890 federal census was destroyed in a fire in 1921.

The federal government considers census data confidential for seventy-two years following the census.

The next available census to researchers will be the 1960 federal census in 2032.

My Census Research Tip

I highly recommend you read more about the value of census research in Val D. Greenwood's book titled, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. This very popular book is the mainstay on "all things genealogy" and should be available at your local library.

Author Profile

About the Author

J. James Simonson, a Suffolk University Journalism graduate, has been a key player in genealogy research since the 1990s. Renowned for his work in Massachusetts vital records, census, city directories, probate and naturalization records, he has helped piece together complex family histories. Simonson’s talent for revealing hidden family connections and unknown relatives has greatly enriched family trees. His research stretches from local New England records to global historical sources. Actively participating in genealogy conferences, Simonson is dedicated to helping people uncover their ancestral stories, significantly impacting the field.