1790 United States Census

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Title page of 1790 United States Census

The United States Census of 1790 was the first census of the whole United States. It recorded the population of the United States as of Census Day, August 2, 1790, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and applicable laws. In the First Census, the population of the United States was enumerated to be 3,929,214.[1]

Congress assigned responsibility for the 1790 census to the marshals of United States judicial districts under an act which, with minor modifications and extensions, governed census taking through 1840. "The law required that every household be visited, that completed census schedules be posted in 'two of the most public places within [each jurisdiction], there to remain for the inspection of all concerned...' and that 'the aggregate amount of each description of persons' for every district be transmitted to the president."[2] over the results, believing that the true population had been undercounted. If there was indeed an undercount, possible explanations for it include dispersed population, poor transportation links, limitations of contemporary technology, and individual refusal to participate.

Data availability[edit]

No microdata from the 1790 population census are available, but aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.

Disappearance of data[edit]

Although the Census was proved statistically factual, based on data collected, the records for many states (including: Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, and Virginia) were lost sometime between 1790 and 1830.[3] Almost one third of the original census data has been lost or destroyed since its original documentation. This includes the data from: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont; however, the validity and existence of most of this data can be confirmed in many secondary sources pertaining to the first census.[4]


  1. ^ "History: 1790 Fast Facts". U.S. Census Bureau. 
  2. ^ "1790 Overview". U.S. Census Bureau. 
  3. ^ Dollarhide, William (2001). The Census Book: A Genealogists Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes. North Salt Lake, Utah: HeritageQuest. p. 7. 
  4. ^ "1790 Census". 1930 Census Resources for Genealogists. 

External links[edit]