Information about the U.S. Census

What is the Census

Please note: This guide covers only those statistical volumes released after census data has been compiled. This guide does not cover those older documents that list census participants by name, which are commonly used for tracking family histories. For that information, please use HeritageQuest Online (WTAMU only).

Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years for the purpose of apportioning the United States House of Representatives. The first census was taken in 1790, and since that time the census of population has been taken each year ending in zero. The United States was the first country to institute a periodic census. The decennial census results are used to determine the number of congressional seats apportioned to each state. Texas currently has 32 members of the United States House of Representatives as a result of the apportionment based on the 2000 census figures. State and local governments also began to rely on the census to determine their own legislative representation and districting. Many questions on the decennial census are mandated by federal law. As the needs of the nation changed, census questions were created to get statistics for different purposes. For example, the first inquiry on manufactures was made in 1810. Questions on agriculture, mining, and fisheries were added in 1840; and in 1850, the census included inquiries on social issues-taxation, churches, pauperism, and crime. For more census background and history, please see (Adobe Acrobat required for viewing).

For Texas, Article III, Section 28, of the Texas Constitution requires the Texas Legislature to redistrict both houses (the Texas House of Representatives and Texas State Senate) at its first regular session after publication of the federal decennial census. The Legislature meets in odd-numbered years. If the Legislature fails to adopt a redistricting plan by the end of the legislative session, a Legislative Redistricting Board (the "LRB") consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller of Public Accounts, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Attorney General, and Commissioner of the General Land Office shall convene within 90 days of adjournment and adopt a plan within 60 days of convening. For more information on this process, please visit

Finding Census Information

Census Bureau Home Page
This is the U.S. Census Bureau's home page and the gateway to all federal census information.
American Factfiner
AFF is an online source for population, housing, economic and geographic data.
Census of Agriculture
View the 2002, 1997, and 1992 Census of Agriculture online.
Economic Census
View the 2002 and 1997 Economic Censuses online.

What WTAMU Has

WTAMU currently collects detailed census information for the five state area: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Census 2000 print volumes can be found on the Documents/Reference Table. Older Census titles can be found in U.S. Shelves under C 3's, or I 9.5:'s. WTAMU's collection begins with the 8th Census from 1860 and is not complete. Search the Cornette Library's Online Catalog for 1990 and 2000 titles, or use our print Monthly Catalog for older census items in the Documents/Reference area.

Please ask for help locating Census items at the Documents Service Desk.


Understanding the Census
HA 201 1990ar Documents/Reference Table
A guide for data users that contains some history, but does not cover the changes of the 2000 census but still a useful source.
Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000
C 3.2:M 46/2 GovDocs Shelves
original version
revised version
Facsimiles of decennial census questionnaires with instructions for enumerators for older censuses (prior to mass mailings). Includes brief histories of the individual censuses.
200 Years of U.S. Census Taking
C 3.2:T 93 Documents/Reference Table
This publication contains a history of the census, a schedule of mortality tables, and examples of census forms.
Key to the Publications of the United States Census, 1790-1887
Z 7165.U5 L85 1976 Reference Shelves
Provides a bibliography of decennial census volumes through the 1880 census. Also includes an index of general subject areas with detailed lists of tables from the census volumes.
Census 2000 Basics
C 3.2:B 29/2000 GovDocs Shelves
Provides a general introduction to Census 2000 including a listing of 100% and sample characteristics, a glossary of geographic areas and a list of data products.
Mapping Census 2000: The Geography of U.S. Diversity
C 3.2:M 32 Documents/Reference Table
This publication provides maps of various demographic characteristics from Census 2000.

Online Information

General Census Information

Census Bureau Home Page
This is the U.S. Census Bureau's home page and the gateway to all federal census information.
American Factfinder
AFF is an online source for population, housing, economic and geographic data that presents the results from four key data programs:
  1. Decennial Census of Housing and Population - 1990 and 2000
  2. Economic Census 1997 and 2002
  3. American Community Survey - 1996-2002
  4. Population Estimates Program - July 1, 2000 to July 1, 2002
U.S. Census Bureau Subjects Index
Informative web pages for concepts can be found in the Subject Index to the Census Bureau web site.
Census Catalog and Guide
Describes data products issued by the Census Bureau and also describes programs and services. In addition, it provides abstracts of the publications, maps, CD-ROMs, computer tapes, diskettes, and items online. The abstracts include the data time, the geographic scope, and the subject content.
A glossary of terms used in and related to census products. Features an alphabetical index for quick retrieval. Includes links to related terms where relevant.

Census 2000 Information

Census 2000 Gateway
The U.S. Census Bureau's gateway to its 2000 decennial census web resources. Includes the American Factfinder database of 2000 census data and includes links to data from all four Summary Files. Highlights of the gateway include State & County QuickFacts; a database for retrieving Census 2000 data by entering a street address; Census 2000 Briefs and Special Reports which provide informative statistics on particular subjects and demographic groups; and Census 2000 volumes in PDF format, which is currently comprised of the Geographic Area Series for the Census of Population and Housing (PHC).
United States Census 2000: Publications Library
Direct link to the Census Bureau's online library of Census 2000 volumes in PDF format, which mirrors those volumes currently available in print format.

1990 Census

Census 1990 Gateway
The U.S. Census Bureau's gateway to its 1990 decennial census web resources. Includes the American Factfinder database of 1990 census data, which is primarily made up of Summary File 1 (100%) and Summary File 3 (sample data) data. Drop-down menus include bulletins of small data sets from the 1990 census and the "We the Americans" reports on various demographic groups. Other major areas of the web site include links to 1990 census data on congressional apportionment.
1990 Census Publications Library
Direct link to the Census Bureau's online library of 1990 census volumes in PDF format. Also published in print, these volumes cover the majority of data released for the three decennial censuses (Census of Population, Census of Housing and Census of Population and Housing), including the Geographic Area Series for the fifty states and U.S. territories. The site includes all reports, including subject reports, for the CP, CPH and CPH series. An excellent resource for finding census statistics at the national, state, county, and city levels.

Historical Census Information

Historical Census Browser
Compiled by the University of Virginia Library Geostat Center, this web site provides access to data from the 1790 through 1960 decennial censuses.
Selected Historical Decennial Census Population and Housing Counts
Presents various sets of decennial census data from as early as 1790. Most documents are in PDF format.

Texas Information

Texas State Data Center
The Texas State Data Center and Office of the State Demographer, functions as a focal point for the distribution of Census information for Texas. The Center also disseminates population estimates and projections for Texas, as well as other information from the federal government, state government, and other sources.