Before using census records, it's a good idea to get some background knowledge on why they were created. We provide a high-level overview of census records in Chapter 2. If you need more information, one site to look at is Census Records History and How to Use Them at homepages.rootsweb.com/ ~haas/learningcenter/censusrecords.html. The site contains a brief history of the census, information on where to locate the records, a primer on the accuracy of census entries, and an introduction to finding aids. For the official view of the census, see the Availability of Census Records About Individuals from the United States Census Bureau at www.census.gov/ prod/2 00 0pubs/cff-2.pdf.
For a summary of the contents of each United States census return and advice on how to use the censuses, see The Census Book by William Dollarhide ( Heritage Quest). Also, a key to using census records is to know what county your ancestors lived in during any given year. A good guide for this is the Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide (Genealogical Publishing Company). If you run into abbreviations in censuses that you don't understand, take a look at the Abbreviations Found in Genealogy page at www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/abbrev.html.
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