I thought I'd do a few posts on census records. The US government started keeping official census records in 1790. Why 1790? The Founding Fathers had finally organized things well enough to form a federal government with the Constitution.
It was decided that the census would be taken every ten years beginning in 1790. So, we had the census for 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 and so on.
US Census records are released 72 years after they are taken. The 1940 census was released in 2012. 1950 will be released in 2022, 1960 in 2032, etc.
The 1790 through 1840 censuses recorded the head of household and family members by age groups. The number of slaves were also recorded.
Beginning in 1850, every member of the household was listed with age, sex, race, occupation and birthplace. In 1880, the birthplace of each person's parents was added along with their relationship to the head of household. The amount of information expanded over the next 4 censuses.
Pay attention to the year the state or US Territory you are researching was added to the Union. Some states are missing for various years, so check to make sure what is available. Nearly the entire 1890 census went up in flames, so very few states are available.
Some states have added state censuses on the 5 year [1815, 1865, 1895, etc.] and can help fill in missing Federal census records.
Other federal censuses: agricultural, mechanical, mortality and slave schedules.
I will cover each census in its own post. The state and special censuses will be covered in separate posts.