Federal Census History
The population schedules of the U.S. federal census are perhaps the single most-important record used to document family history. The census is one of the first records genealogists consult, because the data it contains enables researchers to gather information about individuals and to reconstruct family units, entire neighborhoods, and even towns. Census schedules can help solve many genealogical problems.
The first U.S. census was taken in 1790 to count the population and determine representation in Congress, and it has been taken every ten years since 1790. Federal privacy laws restrict census records from public use for seventy-two years in order to protect the privacy of the living. Consequently, the census of 1940 is the most-recent census available for research.
Early census schedules listed heads of families and listed other individuals within age categories by sex. The most significant change in the census came in 1850, when focus was shifted to the individual as the primary census unit. One line of the census was used to record information on each person. A mortality schedule also was added in 1850, which collected information on deaths that occurred during the twelve months prior to the census day.
Other useful census records include: slave schedule (1850 and 1860); agricultural schedule (1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1930); and defective, dependent, and delinquent schedule (1880). The latter lists persons who were insane, blind, deaf, homeless, or generally dependent on the government for services.
Federal population schedules that are open for research (1790-1940) are available for research at the Georgia Archives through Ancestry.com
Notes about individual censuses:
1790-1810: The first three census schedules for Georgia are missing. A total of seventeen volumes of 1790-1820 censuses were lost by the federal government, evidently before 1895, and the cause is unknown. Tax lists for various years for a few of the counties have been published in Some Early Tax Digests of Georgia, ed. by Ruth Blair, 2 vols. (Atlanta: Georgia Archives, 1926), and An Index to Georgia Tax Digests, 1789-1817. (Published for the R. J. Taylor Jr. Foundation; Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Co., 1986). These can be used as a substitution for the first three census schedules. Additionally, there is Substitute for Georgia’s Lost 1790 Census (Albany, Ga.: Delwyn Associates, 1975). Wills, deeds, tax digests, court minutes, voter lists, and newspapers were searched to compile this list.
1820: The 1820 schedules for Franklin, Rabun, and Twiggs Counties are missing. The Manufacturing Schedules are available on microfilm: (Georgia Archives #331/6)
1830: All existing counties are available.
1840: All existing counties are available. Schedules of Mines, Agriculture, Commerce, and Manufacturing are available on microfilm. (Georgia Archives #331/30-31)
1850: All existing counties are available for both the population and slave schedules. Ancestry.com also includes the Agriculture and Social Statistics for Georgia. The Georgia Archives has on microfilm: Agriculture Schedules: (Georgia Archives #331/68-70); Mortality Schedules: (Georgia Archives #331/71); Social Statistics: (Georgia Archives #331/72)
1860: All existing counties are available for both the population and slave schedules. Ancestry.com also includes the Agriculture and Social Statistics for Georgia. The Georgia Archives has on microfilm: Agriculture Schedules: (Georgia Archives #332/41-43); Mortality Schedules: (Georgia Archives #332/44); Social Statistics: (Georgia Archives #332/45)
1870: All existing counties are available for both the population and slave schedules. Ancestry.com also includes the Agriculture, Social Statistics, and Supplemental Statistics for Georgia. The Georgia Archives has on microfilm: Agriculture Schedules: (Georgia Archives #333/23-24); Mortality Schedules: (Georgia Archives #332/25)
1880: All existing counties are available for both the population and slave schedules. Ancestry.com also includes the Agriculture and Industry/Manufacturers for Georgia. The Georgia Archives has on microfilm: Agriculture Schedules: (Georgia Archives #334/75-85); Defectives, Dependents, and Delinquents Schedules: (Georgia Archives #334/86-87); Manufacturing Schedules: (Georgia Archives #334/88-89); Mortality Schedules: (Georgia Archives #334/90-95); Abstract and Index to Mortality Schedules: (Georgia Archives #334/96-97)
1890: The original 1890 population schedules were destroyed as the result of a fire in Washington in 1921. Less than one percent of the schedules are extant. The three counties in Georgia which survived are available in Ancestry.com. To read First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, please see the National Archives article in Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration. Spring 1996. Vol. 28, No. 1
1900: All existing counties are available
1910: All existing counties are available
1920: All counties are available
1930: All counties are available
1940: All counties are available
The Georgia Constitution of 1798 provided for the taking of a State Census “within two years, and within every subsequent term of seven years thereafter” for the purpose of reapportioning the State House of Representatives. The Georgia General Assembly authorized the taking of a census in certain years and this legislation can be found in the Georgia Laws.
Like the pre-1850 U.S. Census records, State Census records name the head of the household and include only statistical data on other members of the household. Only a few state Census Reports survive.
[The microfilm drawer and box number is in parentheses.]
The census taken in March 1834 enumerated white citizens living in Cherokee Territory. Returns are extant for Cass, Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Murray and White Counties. The returns have been published in Whites Among the Cherokee, collected and edited by Mary B. Warren and Eve B. Weeks (Danielsville, Ga.: Heritage Papers, 1987).
These returns are in the the County Files of the Telamon Cuyler Collection. The collection also includes returns from the 1838 State Census for Union and Paulding Counties. They are also abstracted in either the Georgia Genealogical Magazine (GGM) or the Northwest Georgia Historical and Genealogical Society (NGHGS)
Censuses for Georgia Counties: Taliaferro 1827 [School], Lumpkin 1838 [State], and Chatham 1845 [State]. Atlanta: R. J. Taylor Foundation, 1979. (Census F 292 .T23 C46)
Indexes to Seven State Census Reports for Counties in Georgia 1838-1845. Atlanta: R. J. Taylor Foundation, 1975. (F 285 .T63) [Note: This book includes 1838 (Laurens, Newton, Tattnall) and 1845 (Dooly, Forsyth, Warren).]
Lainhart, Ann S. State Census Records. [Baltimore]: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992. (HA 218 .L25) [Note: This book lists extant state and county-authorized census records and their respective locations for the following years: 1798, 1800, 1810, 1824, 1827, 1831, 1834, 1838, 1845, 1852, 1853, 1859, 1865, 1879, and 1890. Also lists the availability of a few colonial census records and state school census records.]