There is little doubt that census records are among the most useful sources of data for family historians. When used in conjuction with vital records, immigration records, and other record types — census records can provide the genealogical missing link to tie together a group of family members in a way not possible with any other single data source.
Benefits to Using Census Records
There are numerous benefits to using Census records while conducing family history research, regardless if the census was conducted by a local, state, or federal authority. In fact, if you're lucky enough to be researching an ancestor from a geographic area that was included in more than one periodic census, you may feel as though you've hit the genealogical jackpot!
Following are among the key benefits of researching Census Records:
Establishes a date and place for a particular person and/or family group
May show or prove relationship between one or more individuals
May include information to establish age and/or place of birth
Generally provides a more detailed picture of a family group (especially siblings)
Looking at the list of neighbors can yield unexpected finds
Can often obtain clues pertaining to immigration and/or naturalization status
May provide data for occupation, military service or other category
Sample Census Records — 1880 Census Records
The images below show census records from an 1880 census schedule for Dragoon (Osage County) Kansas and the family of Almond B. Strowger (beginning on line 8). These images have been reduced in size to fit this web page and also to provide for quick download, but those available online are generally much clearer than this and allow for advanced image handling of census records, including zoom and pan features.
Almond B. Strowger
While all census records have their unique features, the 1880 census records are especially valuable in that this enumeration was the first to add a question designed to show the relationship between the head of household and others living within that household. We can see in the image below the importance of this additional question. Along with Almond B. Strowger (head of household), we have wife Elizabeth A., daughter Mary R., and step daughter Francis H. Willard. In prior census schedules, one would have to guess or assume the relationship between Francis and Almond, but this possibility for erroneous assumptions was removed in 1880.
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