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Guide to using Ancestry Library: Census Records

Common last names vs. unique last names

If you have a more common last name (i.e. Jones or Smith) make sure you pay careful attention when combing through search results. It's highly likely that multiple people will have the same name as your ancestor and perhaps even have a spouse or child with the same name as your ancestors too. It's important to pay close attention to other things like date of birth, date of marriage, date of death and more. 


Alternatively, if you have a unique last name that few people have, you'll find that for once, this is an immense advantage because for one, you'll have less results to sift through and two, it will be easier and quicker to locate your ancestor in the records. 

What is the census?

WHAT is a census??

"A census is a periodic counting of the population and gathering of related statistics, e.g. age, sex, or social class, carried out by a government."

"census." The Penguin English Dictionary, edited by R. E. Allen, Penguin, 3rd edition, 2007. Credo Reference, Accessed 11 May 2022.

WHAT is the United States census?

The United States census is a census that is legally mandated by the United States Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The first census after the American Revolution was taken in 1790, under Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson; since then there have been 23 federal censuses. The United States census counts every resident in the country, both citizens and noncitizens. 

Are ALL censuses publicly available?

No. Because of a 72-year restriction on access to the census (due to privacy laws), the most recent census year available is 1950. So the censuses from 1960 to 2020 cannot be viewed. 


Searching the Census and Voter Lists

From the "Search" dropdown menu, select "Census & Voter Lists."

Then fill in as much information as you know about the ancestor you're researching. You do NOT need to fill in all of the boxes or be exact (i.e. if you don't know the name of the town or city your ancestor lived in, you can just enter the county/state etc). Just remember that the more information you enter, the greater the chance you'll locate records on your ancestor. 

Filtering your search results

1.) You can filter results to a specific census year 

2.) You can also edit your original search 

3.) Hovering your mouse over a result will display a preview with that record's information. This is one way of determining if that particular record is of your ancestor since results will often come back of people not related to you especially if you're searching a more common surname. The preview will display a person's street address, age and other household members who were recorded as living at the same residence at the time the census was taken



Examining a record

Clicking on a result will display the information that has been parsed from the original census sheet (it will be easier to read) in this format. However, you can click on the thumbnail image to see the original document. Just match the house number/family number to the line on the sheet and you'll see your ancestor's information listed. 

So the same information listed here:

Can also be viewed in its original form: