1940 U.S. Census Seal

The American Family Through Time

Journey Through American Family History Using the United States Census

The first federal census was conducted in 1790, when America was beginning to grow as a country just after having gained independence from the British Empire. Over the course of the next 220 years, 23 censuses have collected tons of data and statistics giving us a tremendous look into the evolution of American life.

As the American family has changed, so has the actual census. For instance, a total of 5 questions were asked in the 1790 Census as opposed to 42 questions in the population section of the 1950 Census.

The timeline below gives you access to all these incredible insights. Simply click on each decade in order to understand what has changed and what has stayed the same. Each decade has a link to a list of its respective questions. Click on the buildings for some quick comparisons between 1880 and 2000. Use the "Fun Census Fact!" cards to further your census knowledge.

Most of all have fun learning about what life might have been like for your ancestors and uncover The American Family Through Time!

For more resources, search our extensive census database and easily view 1940 Census images free!

Data and information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) utilizing their hisotrical decade-by-decade census data.