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1790 Ancestry Census Records Search

Guide, Clues & Finding Aid for the 1790 U. S. Federal Census.

The 1790 census was the first census conducted by the United States and was taken for the purpose of collecting taxes and for the appropriation of seats in the House of Representatives by the population of each state. It is now used for the family history purpose of finding early American ancestors.



Where can I find the 1790 U.S. Census?

There are numerous places to find the 1790 census. While many websites have images, not all images are indexed. Read about each repository below to compare.



  • Ancestry.com 1790 United States Federal Census
    All the surviving 1790 census has been digitized and indexed by Ancestry. You can view for free the only website that has all fields of the census transcribed including names, location, and numbers of family members. Ancestry also has a very strong and flexible search engine. The complete transcribed index is free and images are available for a fee.

  • Family Search
    The Mormon genealogy site offers a free searchable and browsable index and census transcription. Images are available at family history centers.

  • Internet Archive
    This copy of the 1790 census microfilm can be read online or the PDF files can be downloaded. Browsable but not indexed.



Can't find someone in your census search?

Many names may seem incorrect in the census index because surname spelling wasn't fixed as it is today. The census taker may have written the name on the census sheet phonetically as the name sounded to him. Not only may the name have been written incorrectly on the original census, the handwriting may have difficult to decipher when creating the index or the microfilm may have been too faded to read correctly.

If you can't find your ancestor in the census, use these hints to help your search.

  • Do not click the button for "match all terms exactly", or "exact name". This will expand your search to "sound-alike" names.
  • Try a wild card search using an asterisk; i.e. John* in the surname field will bring up Johns, Johnston and Johnson
  • Try a wild card search using a question mark; i.e. Johns?n in the surname filed will bring up Johnson and Johnsen
  • Search only a particular county or town leaving the name blank. Then browse the town page by page to look for your name.
  • Search only on first names then check results for your surname
  • Combine any or all of the above.
  • Try the different databases. Not only were the different census databases names transcribed by different people giving possibly different results, the search engines are different.



How can you use the 1790 Census Records?

Census Date - August 2, 1790



Census questions:

  • City or town or district or township plus county of residence
  • Name of head of household
  • Number (but not names) of free white males ages 16 and older
  • Number (but not names) of free white males under the age of 16
  • Number (but not names) of free white females
  • Number (but not names) of all other free persons
  • Number (but not names) of slaves

Download blank census form


What can you learn from the 1790 Census?


  • You can identify immediate neighbors who may be related or who later may have married into the family.
  • You can identify number of people living in household.
  • You can browse to find spelling variations of your surname to help you find additional records.
  • You can use the location to look for churches, cemeteries, courthouses, and other places where your ancestor may have left records.
  • You can identify slaveholders.



What states are in the 1790 Census?

The 1790 census enumerated slightly less than four million people in the thirteen original states. Unfortunately, some of 1790 census was destroyed during the War of 1812. The surviving states include Connecticut, Maine (which was part of Massachusetts in 1790), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont.

For those states whose 1790 census was destroyed (Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia), there are 1790 Census Substitute Ideas. You can Search the 1790 substitute records at Ancestry.com. There is also the Georgia Reconstructed Census


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