The 1870 US Census
What is the census and what type of information can I find in it?
A census is an official enumeration of the population in a particular area. In addition to counting the inhabitants of an area, the census generally collects other vital information, such as names, ages, citizenship status, and ethnic background. The United States government began collecting census data in 1790, and has done so every 10 years since that date. Selected states have also conducted their own censuses over the years.
In the 1870 census you can get the following information:
- the name, age, and sex of each individual in the household
- whether each individual was white, black, mulatto, Indian, or Chinese
- the profession, occupation, or trade of each male
- the profession, occupation, or trade of each female
- the value of the real estate owned by each individual
- the value of the personal property owned by each individual
- each individual's state, territory, or country of birth
- whether or not an individual's father is of foreign birth
- whether or not an individual's mother is of foreign birth
- the month of birth if the individual was born within the year
- the month of marriage if the individual was married within the year
- whether or not an individual attended school within the year
- whether or not an individual can read and write
- whether an individual is deaf, dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic
- whether or not the individual is a male citizen over 21
- whether or not the individual is a male citizen over 21 who cannot vote
Where can I find census data?
Census records are available through the National Archives and the National Archives regional branches. You can also find census records at many libraries, including the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Online you can find the 1790 federal census, as well as every US Census, on Ancestry.
To find your ancestors in these census records, sometimes you'll need to use an index. Soundex indexes are available, with some exceptions, for the years 1880 to 1920. For information about Soundex, see the topic Soundex: what it is and how to use it.
At many libraries you can also find bound and microfilmed indexes for censuses from 1870 and earlier. You can find indexes at many of the same places where you find census records. Different locations have different indexes, so check more than one library if you don't find the index that you need.