New York State Library
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The U.S. Census Collection

The New York State Library, as a Federal regional depository library, receives most publications of the United States Census Bureau. The U.S. Census Bureau and its predecessors have recorded the changing face of America, compiling statistics and data about our nation's demography. The first decennial census in 1790 was contained in one small book; the 1990 census filled hundreds of volumes, CDs and numerous tape files which hold unpublished information.

As the volume of data increased over the past two centuries, the level of detail available to the researcher also greatly expanded. Comparisons of data from year to year may therefore vary in feasibility.

Census Publications

The Census Bureau publishes many different types of information. These include:

  • the 10 year census, which provides data on population and housing
  • ongoing publication series such as the American Community Survey
  • economic census data, which include diverse topics such as manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, construction, government, agriculture, business, mineral industries, and transportation

Information about current publications and activities of the Census Bureau can be found in Census Catalog and GuideCensus and YouFactfinder for the Nation, and Monthly Product Announcement.

The State Library's Census Holdings

The State Library has all decennial and non-decennial census publications from 1790 to 1990 in print or microfiche. It also has census maps showing tracts, blocks, metropolitan areas, congressional districts and school districts. The 2000, 2010 and soon to be 2020 censuses are primarily available online, although records in the State Library’s online catalog can make it easier to locate this information.

Census material is available at the State Library in print, microfiche, CD-ROM, data tape formats, as well as through the Internet. Reference librarians can assist in accessing census data online as well. Primary publications of the Census Bureau which can be found in the reference area are:

  • Census of Housing
  • Census of Population
  • Census Tracts (both maps and data)
  • Census of Retail Trade
  • Census of Wholesale Trade
  • County and City Data Book
  • County Business Patterns
  • Census of Transportation
  • Congressional Districts
  • Census of Governments
  • Census of Mineral Industries
  • Census of Service Industries

Finding Aids

Many census publications can be located through the Library's online catalog. The tools listed below are also useful in locating census information, and reference librarians will provide assistance.

  • Bureau of Census Catalog of Publications, 1790-1972
  • Bureau of the Census Catalog
  • Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States
  • American Statistics Index

Online Access to Census Data

The New York State Data Center of the Department of Economic Development, the State's lead agency with the Census Bureau, has all the computer tape file information for New York State since 1980. The State Data Center has deposited copies of some Census computer tapes at the State Library, which circulate under normal State Library circulation policy; details are available from the State Library's Reference Desk (phone: 518-474-5355). Reference staff members can make referrals to the State Data Center, access the Census Bureau's data center network, and search online Census Bureau data.

Current economic data is available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ BearFacts website.

For more information about the Census, see the Internet Bibliography for online Census resources.

For genealogical research, see Federal Census Records for NYS.

Last Updated: February 8, 2024