Census GeneaGem: IPUMS USA


Have you ever heard of IPUMS USA? No? Well, I hadn’t either until recently and I’ve discovered it’s a real GeneaGem!

I have to warn you right from the start though that it is the statistical end of census data from all U.S. censuses. It’s not a site that you would use to learn more about any one individual or family:

How exactly can it be used then?

  1. Do you need a census enumeration form? If so, this is the place to find it. Click on the left side under Resources:

2. Much better than just the enumeration forms are all the other choices that appear when you open the link:

Yes, there are actually blank forms and directions for census collections up to 2016!

3. In the Published Volumes in the Resources section, there are lengthy directives provided for those involved in each census enumeration.

I’ve always wondered what the exact instructions were that census marshals, as they are called by the government, had to follow. IPUMS answers that question. It certainly wasn’t “Here are your census pages, now go out and visit each family and fill in all the spaces on the paper.”

Take a look at just part of the 1850 instructions:

These pages were just the beginning of the instructions! Following the introductory remarks is a long list of directions and explanation of Schedule 1.

I found this paragraph really interesting:

I have no one in jail, but now I’ll have to go look for a jail enumeration to see if the crime of which each person was convicted is properly recorded!

If you are looking for an Indian family (Native American), if the head of the family didn’t pay taxes, you aren’t going to find them in the 1850 census:

Here is a neat view of the United States in 1854:

It doesn’t look quite like the geographical shapes of today’s states, does it?

Each state is given a statistical overview:

1850 Overview

How many and what denominations of churches were in Washington County, Maine in 1850? At the time, only my Coleman and Stewart families were living there. I don’t know if they were church goers or not, but if they were, they attended one listed in several pages of statistics:

First page

Washington County had sixteen Baptist churches, one Christian, ten Congregational, one Episcopal, thirteen Methodist, three Presbyterian, one Roman Catholic, eight Union, two Unitarian and one Universalist. My bet would be on the Congregational Church, given my deep New England roots!

4. The main objective of IPUMS is to document statistical analysis, but visitors can also manipulate groups of data. I am the first to admit I am NOT a statistical kind of person in any way, shape or form (I detested math in school), but if you are, you will want to delve into the first section on the left side of the home page:

There are many statistical data options

To actually manipulate the census data, one must register by creating an account (free, as far as I can tell). Then it is possible to view the various data groups and even create your own project. (Remember, though, that you aren’t likely to find your own family in the mostly 1% samplings from the different census years.)

If you have an interest in statistics and analysis of the U.S. demographics throughout the years, IPUMS USA is a fun website to visit.







One thought on “Census GeneaGem: IPUMS USA”

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Linda! I never heard of this site before either. I can definitely see myself getting “lost down the rabbit hole” with this one. 🙂

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