Many countries took periodic censuses to keep track of various aspects of the population. Where available, these records often include helpful details about your ancestors and their families and allow you to pinpoint their location at a particular point in time.
While the questions in census records vary from place to place, and year to year, you can find information like names of other household members, ages, birthplaces, residence, occupation, immigration and citizenship details, marriage information, military service and more.
- Census records can be rich with details about your ancestor. Be sure to look at each and every question that was asked and use the answers to locate more records. For example, the U.S. and Canadian federal censuses for the years 1900-1930 include a date of immigration for immigrants. Use that date to narrow your search for your ancestor’s passenger arrival record in the Immigration Collection.
- Pinpoint your ancestor’s location from the census on a map, and then look for churches, cemeteries, and other places where your ancestor may have left records.
- Be sure to locate your ancestor’s adult siblings in census records. It was common for extended family to live in the same household or near other family members. You may find a parent, grandparent, or other family members living either with them or nearby.
- If you’re having a difficult time locating your ancestor, try searching using only given names and other details like birth year, residence, family members, place of birth, etc.
- Occasionally, census takers only recorded initials in place of the given name. Using only a first initial will bring up these records.
- Census takers didn’t always have the best penmanship, so if you’re having a hard time locating your ancestor, write out the name and try replacing some of the letters with letters that look similar.