Two-hundred and seventeen years ago yesterday, on August 1, 1790, census-takers went door to door knocking on homes in the young United States of America and the first official U.S. Census of the United States was completed. If you're old enough, you may remember participating in one or more yourself. (The last U.S. Census was completed in the year 2000.)
The U.S. Census is a goldmine for family history researchers and it was one of the first places I started when I began looking for information about our family. At this time, the most recent census information available to researchers is the 1930 census, and I started there and went back each decade as I learned more about different branches of our family. Each census year provides a little bit different information, including home addresses, family members' occupations, ages, birthplaces, and more.
If you are interested in taking a look at original census records yourself, you can access them free via Ancestry.com at most local libraries. If you have a library card, you can access the census records from your home computer via most local library websites' connection to Heritage Quest online. (Unfortunately, Ancestry.com does not allow remote access for library users, and their subscription prices are pretty steep.) Some census records are also available online at the LDS Family Search website. Each site has a different search engine so sometimes you can find your family census records on one site when you can't find them on others.
Family Tree Magazine's website has some easy to use downloadable forms for the U.S. Census and other family history purposes. Print out a stack of these for each census year that you are taking a look at and it will make it easier to understand what you are reading.
I hope you'll enjoy trying your hand at a little family history research yourself. Please let me know if you make any exciting discoveries!