You can access free census records on a variety of free genealogy websites, as well as on some sites dedicated to general census research. You'll find everything from the United States Census to census records for individual states. There are also census records for Native American family research and census records for other countries.
What is the Census?
Perhaps one of the most valuable tools for genealogical researchers, the census is a record of information about a population. It includes an official population count, as well as information about specific individuals within the population. When looking at census records, you may be able to find detailed information about your relatives and their lives.
Many people doing census research start with the United States Census. The census is a constitutional mandate in the United State, which means the Constitution requires that it be recorded at least every ten years. The first United States Census occurred in 1790, and there have been census counts every ten years since that date. Records from the United States Census are sealed for 72 years, which means the most recent census records open to the public are from 1930.
Other countries also perform an official census, and there are census records online for many of them. Additionally, you'll find online census records for some individual counties and many states in the United States.
Where to Find Free Census Records Online
Because a census includes an incredible amount of information, transforming it into a searchable online database is no small job. The work required to transcribe the data is significant, and putting a census online costs money. That's why you will not find every United States Census online for free.
Free 1880 United States Census
The only United States Census record available for free is the 1880 census. This census is particularly useful because it was taken during the time of the United States westward expansion. Citizens were moving around a lot, and the census records can help you place your family at a particular location and moment in time. You can find the 1880 United States Census, the 1881 United Kingdom Census, and the 1881 Canadian Census at FamilySearch.org.
Information Available on Census Finder
A website dedicated to providing one stop shopping for census records is Census Finder. Here, you'll find free census searches for various states in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, and Sweden. You'll also find links to search census records for Native Americans.
Additionally, Census Finder provides free lists of the questions asked during each United States Census. These questions can be helpful because it's not always easy to read scanned copies of old census records.
Census Finder is still adding new information to its records and links. If you can't find what you need there, you can check back again later to see if the information has been added. Since the site is really a compilation of useful links, you can also do a specific web search for the census information you need.
Other Resources for Census Records
The United States Census isn't your only option for census research. You can find information about specific populations or states using some of these resources:
- AfriGeneas is a great site for free records for African American family research. The site includes several early census records for African American individuals and families.
- Another good resource for census records is CensusLinks. Here, you'll find information about populations in the United States and several other countries.
- While you can't personally search for information on Loricase.com, this site can put you in touch with a dedicated volunteer who will look up family information for you for free.
No matter how you choose to search for census records online, you'll find that the census is an incredibly useful resource. Researching your family history doesn't need to cost money. You can fill in a lot of the blanks on your family tree with free census records and other free public records.