Getting Started with Genealogy

A great starting point for your genealogy research is census records. The United States Federal Census occurs every 10 years.  The first census recorded in the United States was the 1790 census. The 1850 census was the first census to record the names of every individual living in a household, along with statistical information regarding other members of the household. The 1890 census for most of the United States was destroyed in a fire in 1921.  Begin genealogy research with census records of ancestors that were born before 1940. Census records can be obtained for free by searching the St. Tammany Parish Library databases, Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest. Family Search is a subscription-free website for census records.

  • 1790-1840 censuses include the names of the head of households only. Everyone else in the household is listed by approximate ages.
  • 1850 is the first federal census to include the names of all members of a household, including children.
  • 1850-1860 has separate slave schedules that counted the number of slaves and owner’s name but not the slave’s name.
  • 1870 is the first census to list all African Americans.
  • 1880 is the first census to include street addresses.
  • 1890 census was mostly destroyed in a fire.
  • 1900 census lists the year that immigrants arrived in the United States and their naturalization, if applicable.
  • 1930 and 1940 census are fully indexed by name.

Before starting your census research, you should investigate the state that you are researching to find out the year it joined the United States as a state. The state will not be found in the federal census until the year of statehood. You should also be aware that there are separate censuses for American Indians, Slave Schedules, and Mortality Schedules.

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