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Genealogy: Census Schedules

Census Guides

Important Information in Library Research Guides

Information About Census Schedules

Census Schedules Available in Microfilm at UD Library

State Tax Records / Census Substitutes

These volumes use state tax records to fill in some of the names that would have been in the missing 1790 Federal Census Schedules.

The United States Census

The federal census has been conducted every ten years since 1790.

For genealogists, the most important part of the Census is the "Census Schedule" or "enumeration." This is the part that contains people's names and records information about the individuals in the household.

The schedules are released to the public 72 years after the census was taken. This insures the individual's right to privacy when they answer questions when the census is conducted. The most recent decennial census population schedules available are for the 1940 Census.

Each census has asked different questions. Information about the Census Questions is very important.

Census Schedules

First Census of the United States, 1790, Bucks County, PA.

The Population Census Schedules (or enumeration schedules) are the handwritten information sheets recorded by the enumerators at the time of a census. The schedules were usually large or ledger-sized pages.

The information was recorded in the order in which the enumerator visited the homes. No indexes were prepared.

In some cases, the schedules were kept in the local area and others were sent to the Census Bureau (Commerce Department). Through the course of the years, many schedules were lost or destroyed. In the 1940s, the Commerce Department microfilmed the schedules and the originals were destroyed.


The Census Taker by Norman Rockwell. Saturday Evening Post, April 27, 1940.

Online Sources for Census Schedules

Schedules That Are Not Available

Population schedules for some censuses were destroyed in fires:

Delaware schedules. A list of names has been reconstructed from tax rolls.
1890 Most of the country (Only fragments survive)

Article in Washington Herald, January 10, 1921. As shown in "First in the Path of the Firemen."

1890 Census Fragment for Delaware

Subject Librarian

Rebecca Knight's picture
Rebecca Knight
Associate librarian
Reference and Instructional Services Department
Morris Library, Room 117H

Subjects: U.S. Government Information,
Delaware, census, family studies, RefWorks, APA style, and genealogy.

B.A., History. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1973.
M.S., Library Science. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1981.

Census is More Than Names

Census Searching Tips

Special Aspects

Military and Naval

Formal title: "Military and Naval Population Abroad"

The 1920 census schedules are arranged by state or territory, and thereunder by county, and finally by enumeration district. The states are arranged alphabetically; however, Alaska, Guam and American Samoa, Hawaii, military and naval schedules, the Panama Canal, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands (taken in 1917) are listed last. There was no separate Indian schedule for 1920. National Archives 1920 Federal Population Censuses.

1900. Military and Naval. National Archives.