The U.S. Bureau of the Census has been collecting data since 1790. When people think of the Census Bureau, they usually think first of population statistics, but the agency also gathers economic and other data. See the tabs above for information on those topics.
Because the Census Bureau has collected such enormous amounts of data over the years, it can be overwhelming to try to find out if the data you need are available, and if so, where you can find it. This guide has tabs that break information down both by time period and by topic.
Finding Recent Census Data
Census Bureau Data Compilations
Data on Individuals
Genealogists and other history researchers are often interested in records for individuals. Those records are released after 72 years, so the latest information available is through the 1930 census.
Records for local counties are kept in Special Collections and Archives in Dunbar Library.
Understanding Census Bureau Terminology
The Census Bureau reports include specialized terminology, as well as some common words used in specialized ways. The Bureau provides definitions in many places, including in-context links from data pages, special web pages, appendices to printed reports, and printed guides. Some useful resources are:
- Definitions and Explanations of Terms provides information for the 2000 decennial census and post-2000 data
- Glossaries are included in the 1980 and 1990 Decennial Census guides (located on Ref Bookcase 6 on the 2nd floor of Dunbar Library
Go to the Census Geography tab above for information on geographic terminology.
Why Can't I Find...
Some of the reasons you may not find the data you need are:
The question wasn't asked - Looking at the questionnaire that was used to gather data is a simple way to check this. The Census Bureau includes questionnaires on their websites and in many print publications.
Confidentiality - the Census Bureau suppresses data that can be identified with a specific individual or business firm. This usually affects data for small geographic areas. For more information, see the Confidentiality box below.
The data was not/has not been released - Look for release schedules. Examples:
Most Census Bureau publications in Dunbar Library are shelved by SuDoc (Supreintendent of Documents) classification number. This guides includes SuDoc numbers for frequently requested series. Records in the online catalog also provide the numbers.
SuDoc classification is based on the government agency that issued the publication, so if the agency's place in the government hierarchy changes, the numbers for the agency's publications may also change.
The Census Bureau's classification prefix has been C 3 for most of its history, but between 1972 and 1975, its publications were given a C 56 classification.
In Dunbar Library, Census Bureau publications in recurring series that were given C 56 numbers have been reclassified to C 3, so that publications in a series are shelved together in chronological order.