Searching the US Census on the web
There are many websites with digitized and indexed US Censuses. Some you have to pay for, some not. Here are a few, with the pro’s and con’s of each (this information is current as of Oct 2010):
FamilySearch Record Search
Pro’s: free access. Allows you to search* for people in the 1850 to 1920 U.S. censuses. Sometimes, you can also see a scanned image of the actual census page with all the information collected on that person.
Con’s: you can only see an image of the census page for the years 1850 to 1870 and 1900. If there isn’t a scanned image of the page your ancestor’s on, you won’t be able to see all the information that was recorded about him or her. Also, does not include the censuses after 1920.
Pro’s: the most comprehensive online database. Allows you to search* the 1870 - 1930 censuses and view the original image of every page.
Con’s: Requires a paid yearly subscription (but if your local library or archive has a subscription, you can access it there).
Pro’s: you can search* the complete 1870 - 1920 censuses. You can also search part of the 1930 census.
Con’s: does not offer personal subscriptions—only available at some libraries. Does not include the entire 1930 census.
Pro’s: allows you to search* and see images of the 1860 census and ninety percent of the 1930 census.
Con’s: does not include other census year. Tequires a paid subscription (but you may be able to access it for free at your local library or archive).
Pro’s: allows you to search* the 1860 and 1930 censuses.
Con’s: does not include other censuses. Requires a paid subscription (but again, you may be able to access it for free at libraries and archives).
* Keep in mind that each site’s search page works a little differently. So, if possible, it’s worthwhile to try each one and see which serves your tastes.
And here are some other places where you can read about online U.S. census collections: