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1790 Census Overview

Although the 1790 census is the oldest national census, it is not a complete record as data was lost and destroyed in the following years. Original records from Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, and Virginia were lost between the years of 1790 and 1830. In addition, a third of the records from the original census were destroyed including records from Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York. Despite lost data, the validity was confirmed by many secondary sources.

1790 Census Facts

  • Population: 3.9 Million
  • August 1790
  • Census Date Released: August 1862
  • Number of States Participating: 13
  • US Territories Participated: Districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee)
  • Data Lost: approx. one third

1790 Census Questions Asked

The first-ever U.S. census only asked six questions and initially intended to collect statistical numbers. The data collected on the number of free white males over the age of 16 was used to assess the country’s industrial and military potential.

  • Name of the head of the household/head of family
  • Number of free white males of 16 years or older, including head of the family
  • Number of free white males of 16 years or younger
  • Number of free white females
  • Number of all other free persons
  • Number of slaves owned

Notable Events Prior to 1790:

American was a newly independent nation and in the months leading up to the 1790 Census, there were a number of notable events took place.

  • In Jan. 1790 George Washington gave the first State of the Union speech
  • Feb. 1790 the Supreme Court was convened for the first time
  • Benjamin Franklin died July 16, 1790

Can you trace your family history back to the Mayflower pilgrims and early colonists? Perhaps they fought for American Independence or witnessed the inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States? Although a significant portion of the 1790 census records were destroyed you can use our extensive collection of newspaper archives dating back to 1690 to trace your family history. With GenealogyBank you can uncover more than just names and dates, but the stories that defined your ancestor’s lives. Your family lineage is waiting to be uncovered.

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