Census Schedules are the handwritten information sheets recorded by Census takers for every population census since 1790. The schedules were usually large or ledger-sized pages. The information was recorded in the order in which the Census taker visited homes. In the 1940s, the schedules were microfilmed and the originals destroyed.
Census Schedules include the names of individuals and a varying amount of detail about their social and economic conditions. Genealogists often use the them for their initial research. Information from any given census is released 72 years after the date it was taken in order to protect the privacy of individuals. The latest Census schedules currently available are from the 1930 Census.
Information on the Census Schedules varies with the year the Census was taken. For example, literacy was first asked in 1830 and place of birth in 1850. Sample questionnaires appear in Population and Housing Inquiries in U.S. Decennial Censuses, 1790-1970 (Docs C3.214:39).
A very useful collection of links for historians, focusing on California sources, is Genealogy Information from the Meriam Library at CHU Chico (site not currently being updated).
A complete digital set of the scanned microfilmed Census Schedules from 1790 to 1930 is available from the Internet Archive. The 1940 Census became freely available online on April 2, 2012, at the National Archives.
Microfilm for the State of California, 1850-1920, and for Northwestern California, 1930, is located on the second floor under the call number MF 245. The original 1890 Census was destroyed in a Washington, D.C. fire and is unavailable anywhere in the nation. See also:
The content of this page was created by Joan Berman, Special Collections Librarian Emerita.