Genealogy: 1790 U.S. federal census tutorial

1790 MastheadBy Barry J. Ewell

This is a comprehensive tutorial for researching the 1790 U.S. federal census. You will be introduced to what I have used and shared with thousands to successfully find generations of family. Begin by learning how to use the census as a foundation to effective research, identify, map, and follow family through generations.

The tutorial will expand your knowledge and skills of how to conduct an exhaustive search to find genealogical and Family History records, repositories, resolve research problems and connect with resources researching similar lines.

The tutorial is divided into the following sections:

  • 1790-1940 U.S federal census resources
  • Introduction to 1790 U.S. federal census
  • Clues and lessons learned from 1790 U.S. Federal census
  • Military service and bounty land applications
  • Defining the U.S. federal census
  • Questions asked on the 1790 U.S. Federal census

1790 resources

Click on any of the following years and you will be taken to that years’ census tutorial:


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Genealogy: 1790 Census birth year reference chart

census birth yearBy Barry J. Ewell
As you track your ancestor through the U.S. Federal Population Censuses, you can use age to help you

  • Identify individual members of the family
  • Provide clues to confirm I have the right person/family unit as you search each census
  • Provide clues as to relationship in the family
  • Provide clues if I have the right female when surnames change through marriage
  • Provide clues when people use nicknames and other name variations from one census to the next

I have prepared a birth year reference chart for each census to help you identify an estimated birth year for each ancestor.  This article will focus on the 1790 U.S. Federal Population Census.

Learn more about information about age found in the census:

1790 U.S. Census birth year reference chart
In the 1790 US Population Census, learn the approximate corresponding birth years associated with the age groupings provided.  This census allowed 9 months to be completed.  The first family would have been recorded in August 2, 1790 and the last family on May 1, 1791. In the 1790 Census we only have age groupings for “For Free White Males.” There are columns for females, and slaves to be counted.  Slaves where to be counted as 3/5th of person.  We are not sure that the number in the slaves category is actual slaves or the addition of 3/5th for each slave. Numbers shown in the categories include all persons who were in  the home such  family, relatives, friends, employees, visitors, and boarders.

Note:   No matter when the census taker came, he was to record who was in the house as of August 2, 1790.  If a child was born after this date they were not to be counted.  If a person died before this date, they were not to be counted.  It is very probable the census taker just recorded who was there the day he arrived.

Age calculated as of August 2, 1790 and does not allow for the 9 month variance.

Free White Males
Age CategoryBorn Between Years
Under 16 (0-15)1775-1790
16 and over (16+)1774 and Before