Census returns provide a wealth of information for the genealogist and historian. Prior to 1850 the returns for the U.S. Census contained only the name of the head of the household. They noted the number of members of the family within different age groups, but did not include the indvidual names. Starting with the 1850 U.S. Census, the names of all the family members along with descriptive information, such as their ages at the time the census was taken, were included on the return.
Information contained on any of the U.S. Census can be trusted to be factual and truthful to a certain extent. There are a couple reasons to explain why census information should not be assumed to be one hundred percent accurate. For one thing, the information was/is provided to the census taker by a member of the family (usually the head of the household). From the first U.S. Census taken in 1790 to the present time, there has been a general misunderstanding of the purpose of the census. Many people felt (and still do) that the purpose of the census was to raise taxes or something similar. They would give incorrect information for no other reason than to thwart the government. The census takers, also contributed to problems of inaccuracy because they were traditionally paid according to the number of households they obtained information from. Therefore, as with most other records, any information obtained from a census return should be cross-checked with other public records.
A detailed discussion about the various census which have been taken in the United States since 1790 is included in the section titled, Census Records.
The various historical societies in the six counties that made up Old~Bedford maintain microfilm of the U.S. Census at least for the townships of their own respective counties. Most of the historical societies in Old~Bedford also maintain copies of the indexes for the different U.S. Census returns. The Blair County Genealogical Society has amassed a complete collection of microfilm of the U.S. Census returns for all of the counties within Pennsylvania, from 1790 up to and including the recently released 1920 U.S. Census.
The following list includes the census returns for a few counties which have been transcribed into book form.