[Previously published in AAFA ACTION, Volume VI, Number 2, Fall 1993, Page 48-56]
[AAFA Members who desire a data base file (.dbf),
click the CONTACT page for address and to email.]
The federal census of 1790 was the first nation-wide population count of the United States. Prior to
that time, many of the Colonial states conducted censuses or kept tax records, but 1790 was important
to family history researchers for two reasons. For the first time, our entire country was enumerated
in a consistent format and during a narrow time frame.
The 1790 census is most useful for locating the residence of a family. Once you know the place your
family lived, you then know where to look for other information, such as deeds, wills or church records.
Census day in 1790 was August 1st, which means all information was collected on or after that date. In
some states it took almost a year to complete.
In addition to the name of the head of household and the place of residence, the 1790 census gives
general information regarding family composition. There are five fields of information:
1. Free white males 16 years and olderon:
2. Free white males under 16 years of ageon:
3. Free white femaleson:
4. All other free persons (i.e. freed slaves)on:
5. Number of slavesr
Use these fields to interpret the numbers in the actual enumeration. In other words, in the first family
listed below, John Alvord was the head of the household, there were 4 free white males 16 years and older,
4 free white males under 16 years, 3 free white females, and no other people.
INTERESTING NOTE: Lodwick Alford, enumerated in Wake Co., NC, had more than twice as many slaves (24)
than any other Alford in this census!
Since these statistics cover all persons living in the household, including borders, servants, etc.,
one must be careful in drawing conclusions about a family.
The National Archives, and many other institutions have microfilm copies of census reports for the
following twelve states: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont. Washington, D.C. is included with
Maryland. The census was taken in several other states; namely Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey,
Tennessee and Virginia; but these records were apparently destroyed during the British attack on
Washington during the War of 1812. For some of these states, efforts have been made to reconstruct the
federal census using state census or tax records. Reconstructed census records have been noted as such
on the following tabulation.
The entire 1790 census is reproduced on twelve microfilm rolls. In addition, a comprehensive index has
been prepared, which is filmed on three rolls. The following extraction was taken from the federal index,
as opposed to the original enumeration.
The extraction of "ALFORDS" in the 1790 census included spelling variations such as Alfred,
Alvord, Halvord, Olford, etc. Maximum effort has been made to provide accurate data that is true to the
original census. Errors or omissions should be brought to the attention of the AAFA Census Project Officer,
CLICK for address and to email.