How Accurate is Census Information And Will it Help Me in Finding My Family Members?

If you’re looking for more information to further your family tree research project, you’ve probably looked for birth records, death records, perhaps even military records. Have you looked for census information?

A census is an official count of the population. In the United States, the federal government started conducting censuses in the eighteenth century. Unfortunately a lot of that information has been lost to fire. However, the 1930 census is still available and it’s the largest census released thus far for public access. It contains records for approximately 123 million Americans and since tracing your history back to that date is probably fairly easy, this census can provide some useful information.

In Canada, the country’s first census was in 1666, though 1871 marks the first national census when a total of 98 colonial and regional censuses were carried out.

What Information Does a Census Provide?

The US census, in particular the 1930 census, provides the following information:
  * Address
  * Occupant
  * Residence
  * Sex
  * Race
  * Age
  * Marital Status
  * College Attendance
  * Ability To Read And Write
  * Birthplace
  * Birthplace Of Parents
  * Citizenship
  * Occupation
  * Military

As you can see, much of this information is invaluable to helping you put together a comprehensive family picture. The information can be used to fill in gaps, verify information you’ve already found or point you in a new direction.

Where can You access Census information?

The US and Canadian census information can be accessed by subscribing to one of any number of archival organizations online. However, many also offer free trials. You can also visit the national archives to access this information for free.

Is the Census Information Accurate?

The truth is there are often errors in census information. This occurs due to a number of issues like, the person recording the information had messy handwriting. They may also misspell information or just not hear the information correctly.

To get around these errors, the first step is to be aware of them. Understand that names may have been misheard and look for surnames that sound like the name you’re looking for. Additionally, look for common misspellings, initials, nicknames, and letters which are commonly mistaken for other letters. O and Q, for example are commonly mistaken for each other.

Always, with any information you uncover, try to validate it with at least one other source. That way you know your family tree information is accurate.

Census information can be quite valuable in your quest for a family tree. While the records are limited, somewhat tricky to access and can contain errors, it’s definitely a good source of information.

Use the census to point you in a new direction, or fill in some gaps. Make sure to keep copies of your notes, including any information you think might belong to your family but are unsure of. Eventually all the pieces will come together.

Previous articles:
  What Is Genealogy?
  Why is Genealogy Important?
  What To Do When You Have A Common Surname
  Do I Need The Help Of A Professional Genealogist?
  How to find free basic genealogy information
  Understanding Birth Records In Genealogy Research
  Understanding Death Records In Genealogy Research

Next article: Finding and Understanding Immigration Records

About the Author Admin

Internet Specialist by trade and passionate about my family's history, I set out to try and reconnect the many lost connections with my paternal family.

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