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History

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Overview

Fulfilling the U.S. Constitution's requirement to count the population has been a complex operation since the first census in 1790. In this section, you can learn about legislation related to the censuses, the efforts to improve the count, and the technical innovations introduced to improve data collection, processing, and publication.


1960 census in Hawaii
Taking the 1960 census in Hawaii.

Individual census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, not the U.S. Census Bureau.



Publications related to the census data collected from 1790 to 2010 are available at https://www.census.gov/prod/www/decennial.html.

Visit the National Archives Web site to access 1940 Census records—http://1940census.archives.gov.

Decennial census records are confidential for 72 years to protect respondents' privacy.

Records from the 1950 to 2010 censuses can only be obtained by the person named in the record or their heir after submitting form BC-600 or BC-600sp (Spanish).

Online subscription services are available to access the 1790–1940 census records. Many public libraries provide access to these services free of charge to their patrons.

Contact your local library to inquire if it has subscribed to one of these services.



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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: August 23, 2019