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1790-1930’s Census

1940 Census: Census of Housing 1940 US Department of Commerce

“This film explains how the census of housing will be used for the first time by the Census Bureau to compile an “important social and economic inventory” of the nation’s homes and other dwellings. It explains how to fill out the questions on the schedule, and explains the various types of homes to be described. The correct ways to report housing expenses are also covered, including heating, utilities, as well as market value of property and mortgage debt. The 1940 Census was released for public use on April 2, 2012, although non-population census information (including the Census of Housing) was destroyed in a 1949 fire. For more information about the 1940 census, visit”


George Washington: U.S. President

The 1790 U.S. Federal Census was the very first enumeration conducted of the United States population as provided for in the U.S. Constitution. While the exact format was not specified, we’re thankful that early authorities saw fit to record the names of heads of families, as well as gender and age classifications — paving the way for more information to be collected in future years. The 1790 census asked five questions: the number of free white males over 16 years old, free white males under 16, free white females, other, and number of slaves.

The population in 1790 numbered fewer than four million living among the thirteen original states. Nearly one-third of the original 1790 Census returns have been lost or destroyed. Those remaining include: Connecticut, Maine (part of Massachusetts in 1790), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont.

The following are notable events of this decade:

  • President George Washington gives first State of the Union address (8 Jan 1790)
  • The Supreme Court of the United States convenes (in NY City) for the first time (1 Feb 1790)
  • The first U.S. Census is authorized (1 Mar 1790)
  • Ben Franklin dies in Philadelphia at the age of 84 (17 April 1790)
  • Rhode Island ratifies the U.S. Constitution and becomes the 13th state (29 May 1790)
  • The U.S. House of Representatives votes to locate the nations capital along the Potomac (10 July 1790)
  • Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies at age 35 (5 Dec 1791)
  • President Washington signes Postal Service Act establishing U.S. Post Office (20 Feb 1792)
  • President George Washington uses veto power for the first time in U.S. history (5 Apr 1792)
  • Kentucky is admitted as the 15th U.S. state (1 Jun 1792)
  • First celebration of Columbus Day in the US held in New York (12 Oct 1792)
  • George Washington re-elected as President of the United States (3 Dec 1792)
  • Farmers in Pennsylvania rebel against federal tax on liquor, launch Whiskey Rebellion (7 Aug 1794)
  • Tennessee is admitted as the 16th U.S. state (1 Jun 1796)
  • The United States Marine Corps was established (11 July 1798)

1800 Census

John Adams: U.S. President

The 1800 Census was the second enumeration conducted of the United States population as provided for in the U.S. Constitution. The 5.3 million people represented a more than 35% growth since the first census was conducted ten years earlier. Enumerators of the 1800 census were asked to include the following categories in the census: name of head of household, number of free white males and females in age categories: 0 to 10, 10 to 16, 16 to 26, 26 to 45, 45 and older; number of other free persons except Indians not taxed; number of slaves; and town or district and county of residence.

The categories allowed Congress to determine persons residing in the United States for collection of taxes and the appropriation of seats in the House of Representatives. Most entries are arranged in the order of visitation, but some have been rearranged to appear in alphabetical order by initial letter of the surname.

1820 Census

James Monroe: U.S. President

The 1820 Census was the fourth enumeration conducted of the United States population as provided for in the U.S. Constitution. The 9.6 million people represented a 33% increase over the prior census. Enumerators of the 1820 census were asked to include the following categories in the census: name of head of household, number of free white males and females in age categories: 0 to 10, 10 to 16, 16 to 26, 26 to 45, 45 and older; number of other free persons except Indians not taxed; number of slaves; and town or district and county of residence. Additionally, the 1820 census for the first time asked the number of free white males 16 to 18; number of persons to be naturalized; number engaged in agriculture, commercial, or manufacture; number of “colored” persons (sometimes in age categories); and number of other persons except Indians.

1850 Census

Millard Fillmore: U.S. President

The 1850 Census was the seventh enumeration conducted of the United States population as provided for in the U.S. Constitution. The 23+ million people enumerated represented a nearly 36% increase over the prior census. One of the most significant changes in the U.S. Census occurred with this effort which recorded the names of every individual in a household. In addition, enumerators were directed to include the following: name; age as of the census day; sex; color; birthplace; occupation of males over age fifteen; value of real estate; whether married within the previous year; whether deaf-mute, blind, insane, or “idiotic”; whether able to read or write for individuals over age twenty; and whether the person attended school within the previous year. No relationships were shown between members of a household.

The following events occurred in the decade beginning in 1850. These are the events that shaped the world during the lives of your ancestors, both here in the United States and throughout the world:

  • American Express is founded by Henry Wells & William Fargo (19 Mar 1850)
  • President Zachary Taylor dies while in office and Vice President Millard Fillmore becomes the 13th President of the United States (he is inaugurated the next day) (9 July 1850)
  • California is admitted as the 31st U.S. state (9 Sep 1850)
  • The New York Times is founded (18 Sep 1851)
  • The first YMCA in North America is established in Montreal, Quebec (9 Dec 1851)
  • Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established (16 Feb 1852)
  • Inauguration of United States President Franklin Pierce (4 March 1853)
  • The Great Train Wreck of 1856 was the worst railroad calamity in the world to date, occurring near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (17 July 1856)
  • End of term for President of the United States Franklin Pierce. He is succeeded by James Buchanan (4 March 1857)
  • United States President James Buchanan inaugurates the new trans-Atlantic telegraph cable by exchanging greetings with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (16 Aug 1858)
  • Ground is broken for the Suez Canal (25 April 1859)
  • First intercollegiate baseball game is played, between Amherst and Williams Colleges (1 July 1859)

1900 Census

William McKinley: U.S. President

The 1900 Federal Census was the twelvth enumeration of the United States population and the first one of the new century. Researchers will find this to be a valuable census given the data elements captured, but also because the loss of the 1890 census leaves many with a 20 year gap during a period of heavy immigration.

Elsewhere in the Spring/Summer of 1900, the second modern Olympics were held in Paris, France. Among the competitors were 55 Americans whose strong performance dominated the sprints and field events. In China, the government was busy responding to the Boxer Rebellion. And in Germany, a new form of transportation recorded its first — Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s hydrogen-filled airship successfully completed its maiden voyage in Friedrichshafen.

Some highlights for the decade beginning in 1900 include:

  • The first Electric bus becomes operational in New York City (2 Jan 1900)
  • The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs organized in Philadelphia PA (29 Jan 1900)
  • Harry Vardon becomes world golf champion (18 Feb 1900)
  • Hawaii officially becomes a U.S. territory (14 Jun 1900)
  • United States President William McKinley begins second term (4 Mar 1901)
  • Rolling Mill Mine disaster in Johnstown, PA, kills 112 miners (10 Jul 1902)
  • A five month strike by United Mine Workers ends in the United States (21 Oct 1902)
  • San Francisco earthquake (est. magnitude 7.8) destroys much of city, killing at least 3,000; with 225,000-300,000 left homeless, $350 million in damages (18 Apr 1906)
  • U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Devils Tower the nation’s first National Monument (24 Sep 1906)
  • Record number of immigrants processed through Ellis Island, 11,747 in single day (17 Apr 1907)
  • Women compete in modern Olympic Games for the first time (13 Jul 1908)
  • Chicago Cubs win World Series defeating the Detroit Tigers (14 Oct 1908)
  • Famed auto maker, Henry Ford produces his first Model T automobile (27 Sep 1908)
  • William Howard Taft defeats William Jennings Bryan in U.S. presidential election (3 Nov 1908)
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded (12 Feb 1909)
  • United States Navy founds a navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (11 Nov 1909)

1930 Census

The 1930 Census of the United States was the Fifteenth Enumeration of the United States population, as required at least every 10 years by the United States Constitution. The official start date for this census was April 1, 1930. Given the restriction of keeping census information private for 72 years, this set the official access date for release at April 1, 2002.

Many avid researchers celebrated the opening by attending special midnight sessions at regional branches of the National Archives. Others were among the first to show up the following morning to search 1930 Census schedules for their family living in the midst of the Great Depression.

Herbert Hoover was the 31st President of the United States in office from March 4, 1929-March 4, 1933.  The decade of the 1930’s started off in the shadow of the stock market crash of October 1929.

  • 1/1930 – Prohibition in the United States celebrates 10th anniversary
  • 2/1930 – Sonja Henie wins her fourth consecutive world figure-skating title
  • 2/1930 – NY City to install traffic signals at busy intersections
  • 3/1930 – Former President William Howard Taft died in Washington DC at the age of 72
  • 6/1930 – Boxer Max Schmeling wins world heavyweight title after low blow from Jack Sharkey
  • 7/1930 – Gallant Fox win horse racings triple crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont)
  • 11/1930 – Golfer Bobby Jones retires, winner of numerous titles including Grand Slam
  • 1/1931 – Bela Lugosi plays vampire in remake of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula
  • 3/1931 – Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne, killed in plane crash in Kansas
  • 5/1931 – New York’s Empire State Building opens to become world’s tallest building
  • 8/1931 – 785-foot USS Akron christened, the 1st Goodyear dirigibles built for the US Navy
  • 10/1931 – Inventor Thomas Alva Edison died in New Jersey at the age of 84
  • 10/1931 – New York’s George Washington Bridge opens over Hudson (Cass Gilbert design)
  • 2/1932 – Lake Placid, New York plays host to Winter Olympics
  • 3/1932 – Son of aviator Charles Lindbergh kidnapped from New Jersey home
  • 3/1932 – John Philip Sousa, famed composer, dies at the age of 77
  • 5/1932 – Amelia Earhart first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic
  • 5/1932 – Lindbergh baby found dead in New Jersey field by truck driver
  • 8/1932 – Los Angeles, California plays host to Summer Olympics
  • 11/1932 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt wins Presidential election over incumbent Hoover
  • 1/1933 – Adolf Hitler named Chancellor of Germany

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