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Census Reference Publications

Census data collection and processing procedures are complex; census data products are voluminous, varying in format and content; glossaries associated with census programs and tabulations are unique. As a result, the Census Bureau publishes general and specific reference publications to aid researchers in understanding and utilizing its census data products. In addition, other reference publications for use with census data are published by individuals or commercial vendors from academic, business, and practical approaches. Although there are many types of reference publications, they tend to generally fall into the following categories:

  • histories
  • catalogs
  • guides
  • indexes
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Spring 2013

Census Connections

A Guide To Locating Selected U.S. Decennial And Economic Census Publications In The Library Of Congress

Table of Contents

Census Reference Publications
      Censuses of Population
            Census Data
            Specific Censuses
            State Censuses
      Economic Censuses
Census Search Strategies
Current Business Reports
Special Censuses
Congressional District Data    New resource
LC Catalog Searches

Image (left):
Promotional Poster "It's your America! Help the ten-year roll call,"
Head-and-shoulders portrait of Uncle Sam, Census 1940.
    U.S. Bureau of the Census
Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division

History guides tend to provide general background information on the development of the decennial and economic census programs, whereas catalogs usually provide information on the titles of specific data products and formats and list any new products that have been published. Basic guides and user's guides primarily focus on providing specific detail on operations and activities involved in planning and carrying out the censuses as well as guidance and technical documentation in using specific data products. Indexes generally provide assistance in accessing specific types of census data products, such as a subject index to current population reports.

Following is a very selected list of reference publications that exist for individual censuses or a range of censuses. The types of reference publications available for each census will vary, and there may not be a specific reference publication for some censuses. As some sources cover more than one census, they are repeated in the subsequent census entries to which they apply.

Where possible, an attempt has been made to include reference sources that cover census history, user's guides or subject indexes that provide additional information on subject content and coverage, special indexes (e.g., to tables in census reports, state area report numbers, census tract reports, titles of census report series and current population and industrial reports), and to provide LC call numbers to aid in retrieving census reports from the General Collections. Reference publications covering the decennial censuses are listed first followed by those covering the economic censuses.

In recent years more and more government publications, including those by the Census Bureau, have been digitized and made available to the public through Hathi Trust Digital Library External Link and Internet Archive.External Link We have included links to the digital versions when available, but we recommend that you check these databases in case what you need has been added.

Censuses of Population: Decennial Census

      Census Data       History      Catalogs/Guides/Indexes      Specific Censuses

Census Data

Census Publications Online

Links to a variety of U.S. Bureau of the Census publications covering agriculture, government, business, trade and services, manufacturing & mineral industries, population and housing construction, foreign trade, transportation, as well as general and reference products and Technical Documentation/Working Papers.

Selected Historical Decennial Census Publications, 1790-1990

United States Decennial Census Publications, 1790-1970 [microform]
LC Call Number: : Microfilm 89/164 (H)
Note: The Library of Congress only has microfilm holdings for the 1950 and 1960 Decennial Censuses Reel numbers: 164C and 164E, respectively).
LC Catalog Record: 89894197

Accompanied by printed reel guide: A guide to the microfilm edition of the United States decennial census publications, 1950-1960, bibliography and reel index, edited by Edward A. Reno, Jr. and Mary Beth Reilly. MicRR guide no.: Z7165.U5R45; LC Catalog Record: 75033819

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Census History

Anderson, Margo J. . The American census: a social history. New Haven : Yale University Press, c1988. 257p.
LC Call Number: HA37.U55A58 1988
LC Catalog Record: 87029828

Provides a history of census taking in the U.S. and gives some back ground information on its impact on American history.

Anderson, Margo J. Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census. Washington, DC : CQ Press, c2000. 424 p.
LC Call Number: HA37.U55 E53 2000
LC Catalog Record: 00030522

A collection of narratives on the impact of the U.S. Decennial Census on the American way of life.

Anderson, Margo J. And Stephen E. Fienberg. Who Counts? The Politics of Census-Taking in contemporary America. New York : Russell Sage Foundation, c1999. 319.
LC Call Number: HA179.A53 1999
LC Catalog Record: 99025035

"Who Counts? Offers a detailed review of the preparation, implementation, and aftermath of the last three censuses. It recounts the growing criticisms of inaccuracy and undercounting, and the work to develop new enumeration strategies."

Decennial Census History

A recent addition to the Census web site, this page highlights significant developments in the history of the U.S. Census. Click on "Through the Decades" to get at a summary of census data gathering. Also has link to quick facts for a specific decennial census, providing statistics such as total cost for publishing the census, population at the time, number of states in the union at that time, name of the director of the Census Bureau at that time, and more.

The Hard Count: The Political and Social Challenges of Census Mobilization. New York : Russell Sage Foundation, c2006. 156p.
LC Call Number: HA181.H37 2006
LC Catalog Record: 2005057522

Discusses the factors that influenced the planning, implementation, and mobilization of the American public to participate in the 2000 Census

Hobbs, Frank and Nicole Stoops. Demographic Trends in the 20th Century. [Census 2000 Special Reports] U.S. Census Bureau, [2002]. 163, [67] p.
LC Call Number: HA201.12.H63 2002
LC Catalog Record: 2003387106
Online [PDF Format: 3.3MB/ 222pp.]

Highlights the demographic trends that have redrawn America's demographic portrait over the course of the 20th Century.

Measuring America : the decennial censuses from 1790 to 2000. Washington, DC : U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau. : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G. P.O., [2002]
Online: [PDF format: 15 MB/ 149 pp.]
LC Call Number: HA37.U55M376 2002
LC Catalog Record: 2002485403

Provides for each decennial census: the questionnaires and instructions, individual histories of the U.S. decennial censuses, census cost, sampling, publicity, availability of population schedules, and more.

Twenty censuses: population and housing questions 1790-1980
LC Call Number: HA37.U55U54 1979a
LC Catalog Record: 79600181

200 Years of U.S. Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990
LC Call Number: HA37.U55B63 1989
LC Catalog Record: 90600122

The above two publications give the actual questions appearing on the census questionnaires for each of the decennial censuses and provide additional background information.

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Catalog Listings

For access to printed reports at the Library of Congress from 1790 to 1945, see:

Dubester, Henry J. Catalog of U.S. Census Publications, 1790-1945.
Online: [PDF Format: 176MB/ 929 pp.]
LC Call Number: Z7554.U5U62 1968
LC Catalog Record: 68055126

Developed by the Census Library Project under the sponsorship of the Bureau of the Census and the Library of Congress, this publication represents the second compilation of Bureau of the Census reports. It contains LC call numbers for all LC-owned census reports from 1790-1945. Dubester is also online, included in the Bureau of the Census Catalog of Publications, 1790-1972, at [PDF Format: 176MB/929 pp.]

Bureau of the Census Catalog of Publications, 1946-1972
LC Call Number: Z7554.U5U58 1975
LC Catalog Record: 75015961
Online: [PDF Format: 176MB/929 pp.]

Complements the title above and provides an historical and comprehensive bibliography of sources for Bureau of the Census statistics from 1790 through December 31, 1972. It has LC Catalog Record Numbers to quickly identify catalog records in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. This publication is also available online [PDF Format: 176MB/929 pp.]

Beginning with the first census report of 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau issued various circulars, guides, and lists of publications as occasion demanded, producing one comprehensive listing of materials entitled:

Circular of information concerning census publications, 1790-1916
LC Call Number: Z1223.C4 1916
LC Catalog Record: 17026188

This circular presents the descriptive and chronological lists of census publications produced for the 1790 to the 1910 Censuses, listing the publications primarily according to subject, with the times under each subject heading being presented in the order of the dates to which they were issued. It also includes a brief summary of the contents of each publication and on page 111 lists the intercensal publications published between 1910 and 1916. The Appendix contains the Heads of Census Office, 1840-1916 as well as the officials of the Bureau of the Census. It also has a subject index. There are also earlier editions:
1912 - LC Call Number: Z7554.U5U5 1912; LC Catalog Record: 12029017
1914 - LC Call Number: Z7554.U5U5 1914; LC Catalog Record: 14030834

Cook, Kevin L. Dubester's U.S. Census Bibliography with SuDocs Class Numbers and Indexes.
LC Call Number: Z7553.C3C66 1996
LC Catalog Record: 95043247

Designed to 'complement' Dubester's Catalog of U.S. Census Publications, 1790-1945 by providing SuDoc classification numbers as well as title and series indexes.

Census Catalog and Guide. (1946-1998)
LC Call Number: Z7554.U5U32 1997
LC Catalog Record: 85644573
Online: [PDF format: 1.6 MB/ 62 pp.]

Begun in 1946 with the first use of the word "guide" as part of the title to reflect the special emphasis placed on providing pertinent information that would be helpful to researchers using census data. This annual guide describes all the census data products generated by the Census Bureau. It provides information on all series, new products, has handy charts, and indicates formats available for each title. It ceased publication in 1998.

Catalog Listings after 1998

Census and You

Volume 31, 1996, through volume 34, April 1999 are available online. This monthly newsletter provided information on census products and developments. April 1999 was the last issued.

Monthly Product Announcements

Provides access to issues covering 1997-2000. The Monthly Product Announcement provided the latest releases of census data products and it updated the Catalog. It was good for keeping track of titles in a series as they are released.

2002 Product Profile: a data products update from the U.S. Census Bureau [PDF Format: 725 KB/ 8pp.]

2010 Census Data Products: United States At a Glance [PDF Format: 154 KB/ 4pp.]

Current catalog listings of census data products now available at For information on data releases and the latest developments at the Census Bureau, see U.S. Census. Newsroom. Releases.

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Subject Guides/Indexes

The following two publications provide subject access to the decennial censuses covering from 1790 to 1940. They include LC Call Numbers and LC Catalog Record Numbers and provide subject access to tables in the census reports:

Schulze, Suzanne Population information in the Nineteenth Century: 1790-1890.
LC Call Number: Z7164.D3544 1983
LC Catalog Record: 83017380

Schulze, Suzanne Population information in the Twentieth Century: 1900-1940.
LC Call Number: Z7164.D3545 1985
LC Catalog Record: 85011412

Topical index of population census reports, 1900-1930
LC Call Number: HA201 1930.Z2
LC Catalog Record: 34026321

Covers the volumes of the regular Census Reports on Population for 1900 - 1930 together with the 1920 and 1930 Abstracts, the 1930 Report on Unemployment, and the 1900 Special Report on Occupations. The tables cover each subject area, giving geographic breakdown from national to metropolitan areas, listing the report volume and page number where data can be found.

For more recent subject access to census publications see:

Publications Library

Publications, briefs and reports from Census Bureau experts arranged by topics, surveys and programs, and by year. Also, see Index A-Z of the Census website for topics, pages, surveys listed in the alphabetical order.

Specific Censuses

      1790 - 1920       1930      1940      1950       1960      1970      1980       1990      2000      2010

State Censuses

State Censuses; an annotated bibliography of censuses of population taken after the year 1790 by States and Territories of the United States.
LC Call Number: Z7554.U5U63 1969
LC Catalog Record: 68058215
Full text available online via Hathi Trust

"Issued by the Census Library Project sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the Library of Congress." Another guide by Henry J. Dubester that provides LC Call numbers for LC holdings on state population censuses from 1790-1948.

Last Updated: 03/12/2018

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  March 12, 2018
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