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One of the most basic records for any family researcher is the census.  Many websites make a ‘big deal’ of this and a subscription is necessary.  However, if you know where and how to look you can view and download all available US Census for FREE!

Find your ancestor on Family Search – in this example, we are researching ‘John Jones

The vital information for this search is under…

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X74P-ZVF : accessed 24 September 2014), John Jones, Quogue, Suffolk, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0113, sheet 6B, family 154, line 77, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1652; FHL microfilm 2,341,386.

Break down this information into usable chunks…

1) YEAR OF CENSUS = United States Census, 1930
Open Internet Archive, navigate to the 15th Population Census of the United States – 1930 and click – this will display a link for each US State

2) ADDRESS: John Jones, Quogue, Suffolk, New York, United States
For this example; click on ‘NEW YORK’

3) VOLUME REEL NO = roll 1652
Locate reel/roll number 1652

4) COUNTY = Suffolk
Check the reel you’ve identified as 1652 contains records for ‘Suffolk’ county

Check the reel you’ve identified as 1652 contains records for Enumeration District (ED) 113 (you can drop the leading 0) – this is displayed in the link and when you click on the link it is also displayed on the first or second page of the microfilm) Only proceed to the next step when satisfied you’ve got the correct microfilm

Zoom into the microfilm to the point where  you can read it comfortably – this can be slow as these are very large documents – take your time.  Check the heading on the top left of the sheet to ensure you are still in the right document.
State = New York
County = Suffolk

Depending on the location – urban, rural, other; you may need to check the ‘CITY WARD NO’ but in this example we are in search of the ‘INCORPORATED PLACE’
On the top right corner of the document you will see the ED no.

Always take a note of the information on the first page of the microfilm. It will assist you in locating the sheet number.  This particular microfilm has three sections and ED 113 is in the middle section – this will give an approx indicator of where to begin the search for the area of ‘QUOGUE’.

Use the slider at the bottom of the the screen (the little hand with the pointing finger) to navigate though the 1000+  pages on this microfilm, stopping regularly to check the ED no. (it’s slow & there’s no other means of doing this as these microfilms have no indexation – that I can see)

As ED 113 is in the middle section I begin my search mid way across the slider – locate ED 113 and use the right & left pointing arrows on the bottom right to skip from sheet to sheet until I display ‘6B’ – I find it on page no. 590, New York, Reel 1652

7) LINE 77
Now move down the sheet until you come to ‘LINE 77’ – check that you are viewing ‘FAMILY 154’ and the name is JOHN JONES

This was accomplished using two completely FREE websites – FamilySearch.org & Archive.org.  You have located a New York 1930 Census for John Jones – he is the proprioter of a boarding house on Station Road!!

***Note: I wrote this post before FamilySearch uploaded images of the 1930 Census but the same steps apply to any year they haven’t yet scanned/indexed the images