Finding the minimum information for census records
To find an individual's ethnicity in census records, you must at least know the individual's name or the name of the head of household, depending on the year of the census, and the state and county in which the individual lived when the census was taken. If you are using census records for 1870 or earlier, you can probably use an index that only requires the state and surname. If you do not have the minimum information to locate a census record, you can either:
Get help finding some of the minimum information by selecting one of the following items,
click the Back button on your browser to return to the list of other places where you can find an individual's ethnicity, or
read the paragraphs below for a few additional tips.
Finding ethnic background
You may also want to check the information contained in state and local censuses. Not all states and localities took their own censuses and the contents vary from state to state. However, sometimes the information is quite valuable. Genealogy.com has a selection of state census records on CD-ROM, and you can also contact libraries, state archives, and genealogy societies in the area where your ancestors lived. They should be able to tell you if any exist and where you might find them. The Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is another possible source.
You can also check for an individual's surname in surname dictionaries, which are available at most libraries. Surname dictionaries normally give information about the ethnic background associated with a surname. However, if your family's surname has changed over time, you may not find the current version in the dictionary, or the dictionary may be misleading. Other family members may have ideas about your ethnic makeup, too, so try asking around. While information gleaned from dictionaries and family members is valuable, it's probably a good idea to use other records to verify what you've learned.
Previous research about your family is another good source for information about your ethnic background. For help with finding previous research, see the topic Previous research. Make sure to check photo albums, scrapbooks, diaries, and family Bibles at home. See the topic Finding information at home for more information.
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