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Historical Census Research: Home

A guide to doing historical census research at UCSB Library.

Questions on the Census Forms


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Census statistics have been collected in the United States every ten years since 1790. The Library collects the major publications from each census; they are listed in the UCSB Library catalog, and housed in the Government Information collection. Statistics are available for population, housing, and social and economic characteristics. Statistics are collected separately for businesses, agriculture, and governmental bodies.

LIBRARY HOLDINGS for Census schedules are on microfilm. Use Library Search (ADVANCED SEARCH and RESOURCES IN THE LIBRARY CATALOG) and or the above tabs to locate call numbers and reel numbers. 

National Archives and Records Administration Census Records Online and More. 

Historical Census Timetable

  • 1790 – first census
  • 1810 – first Census of Manufactures (now Census of Manufacturing)
  • 1820 – Foreign Trade statistics first compiled
  • 1840 – first Census of Mineral Industries and Census of Agriculture
  • 1850 – first Census of Governments
  • 1905 – Census of Manufactures taken separately from decennial census
  • 1920 – Data first collected at tract level for eight cities (not published, but available for purchase)
  • 1925 – Census of Agriculture taken separately from decennial census
  • 1929 – first Census of Business (later called Economic Census)
  • 1930 – first Census of Construction Industries, Retail Trade, and Wholesale Trade
  • 1933 – Census of Business taken separately from decennial census; Services Trade first taken
  • 1940 – Use of sampling began
  • 1940 – Census tracts and blocks first adopted as official geographic entity (data first published)
  • 1950 – Census of Population expanded into Census of Population and Housing
  • 1963 – first Census of Transportation
  • 1972 – Census of Business divided into Census of Retail Trade, Census of Service Industries, Census of Wholesale Trade
  • 1985 – TIGER digital geographic database developed; first used with the 1990 census
  • 1992 – Census of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate Industries separated from Census of Construction

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