Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States of America established a census to be taken every 10 years. The first census occurred in 1790, and it has continued every decade since. Due to a restriction on releasing the data for 72 years, the last census made public is the 1930 Census. The 1930 Census is detailed, and, in addition to a simple listing of persons and their ages per residence, it also recorded addresses, if the residence had a radio, sex, race, marital status, place of birth, degree of literacy, occupation, military service and other information.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Start with the Internet. Searching the 1930 Census is easy if you have Internet access. Online services like Ancestry.com provide searchable census data for a small fee. Often, free online census records can be found for many states and communities with a little searching. Ask a genealogist (someone who specialises in researching ancestry) for tips.
Go to your local library. Many libraries have local census information readily available in print, microfilm and online formats. They also often provide free Internet access and free access to online services such as HeritageQuest.com.
Visit your local historical society or genealogical research facility. These organisations will provide local census records and other relevant documents. They will also have knowledgeable staff to assist you in your searches.
Visit your regional National Archives. The National Archives states that in addition to Washington, D.C., regional facilities can be found in Anchorage, Alaska; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Fort Worth, Texas; Kansas City, Kansas; Laguna Niguel, California; New York City, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington.
Where to Go
Decide on the information you are seeking. Those interested in genealogy are usually seeking information about specific ancestors, their families, places of residence, places of birth and ages. Others, like social scientists, are searching for cumulative data to analyse population trends, race, migration of people from the farms to the city, etc.
Compile a list of any known names, places of birth, residences and ages of those you are seeking. Starting with a list of known names, one can work back from 1930 and trace families and their ancestors back through time.
Start with the heads of families. Searchable online census records are often indexed by the heads of families, and it is easier to find people by starting with the name of the head of the household (i.e., father or mother).
Think about different spellings of last names. Often a person will assume that their ancestors are not in the census because they cannot be found using their known surname. However, census takers often spelt surnames phonetically (how they sound rather than their common spelling), and you may need to experiment with different spellings to find the person that you are searching. It is not uncommon for families to alter the spelling of their surnames over time.
Tips and warnings
- Librarians, genealogists, historians and others are very familiar with census records and will often offer suggestions and advice.
- People often share the same name, even in the same community. It is wise to collaborate census records with other data to ensure that you are researching the right person.
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