As we prepare to celebrate the Indiana Bicentennial in 2016, and Monroe County’s Bicentennial in 2018, it is interesting to look back at the growth in our population. Congress is mandated by the Constitution to take an enumeration every ten years for apportionment of the House of Representatives, thus we have the U.S. Census. The first was taken in 1790. The early census records were really a basic count of the voting population (i.e. white men over 18 years of age). Throughout the decades, additional questions have been added. (My favorite brief history is “History and Organization” CFF-4 of the Factfinder for the Nation series: https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/cff4.pdf).
For Genealogists, the 1850 Census is a jewel because of the standardized questionnaire allowed for the collection of the same information for all geographic units. The statistics were always published and distributed to local libraries until 2000 when almost all were distributed electronically. The U.S. Census Bureau has been working on retrospective conversion of the data to electronic format, with what I consider great success. It is true many of the specialized data sets have not been converted or may be in “pdf” or scanned files only.
In using this data it is important to realize that boundaries of geographic locations changed, terminology evolved, and the demand for additional and more up-to-date data (i.e. more than every 10 years) has taken precedence. Still, statistics can be an interesting and valuable way to examine numerous areas of local history: Marriage and divorce, race, gender, educational attainment, telegraph systems, manufacturing and transportation.
The Census Bureau provides links to many of the statistical publications, some of which have been converted for use with Excel and other data applications. See: http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/hiscendata.html
However, I prefer an older page they had that specifically linked to each decennial (i.e. every 10 years) census which is now stored on the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20120502094211/http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/decennial/
To locate census data feel free to inquire with a library either here at the Monroe County History Center or at one of the Federal Depository Libraries across the U.S. http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp
Note: For the manuscript census, see Ancestry Library Edition available at the MCHC Library. Individual information is released after 70 years by the U.S. National Archives and Records Service: http://www.archives.gov/research/census/
Examples of the Manuscript Census from 1850 for Governor Paris Dunning:
Post Submitted by Lou Malcomb (Research Library Volunteer)