How to Access Public Census Records

by Carola Finch

Census records are a collection of statistics and information gathered by the United States Census Bureau and some states about people, households, communities, industries, businesses and geography. Some of these records are accessible to the general public. Census records are the most frequently viewed public records in the United States. The U.S. government collects census records every 10 years and updated statistics in 2010. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration stores census reports that have been created since 1930 in various locations. Many of these records are on microfilm.

Instructions

Find information on American communities, population statistics, economic data and geographical information at the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder website at Factfinder.census.gov.

Visit the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., or visit a regional facility in Anchorage, Alaska; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Fort Worth, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Laguna Niguel, California; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California; or Seattle, Washington.

Find the addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the U.S. Census Bureau’s offices on their regional offices page. When you visit an Archives facility, ask the staff for assistance in locating the resources you need. They can’t conduct a search for you because of a limited number of staff. The Archives Library Information Center has a searchable database on its website at Archives.gov/research.

Visit a state or public library to view the census records you need. Many libraries have National Archives records you can access for free. Some states also gather their own census information such as birth dates, marriages, divorces and dates of death.

Call the Populations Division of the U.S. Census Bureau toll free at 1-866-758-1060 to locate census reports on topics related to household statistics and the U.S. economy. You can also conduct a search on their web page at Publicrecordsguide.com.

Research your family tree by going to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration genealogy website at Publicrecordsguide.com. The site lists where your ancestors were born, their birth dates, ages, their careers and more.

Check with a federal or state government department for specific statistics related to the area they cover. For example, departments of education may have statistical information about schools.

Items you will need

  • Internet connection
  • Library card

About the Author

Carola Finch began freelancing for newspapers and magazines in 1976. She specializes in writing about people with disabilities, business, Christianity and social issues. Finch studied journalism and communications at Red River Community College.

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