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The first census began more than a year after the inauguration of President Washington and shortly before the second session of the first Congress ended. Congress assigned responsibility for the 1790 Census to the marshals of the U.S. judicial districts. The pay allowed for the 1790 "enumerators" was very small, and did not exceed $1 for 50 people properly recorded on the rolls.

The First Federal Congress established a special committee to prepare the questions to be included in the first census. The suggestions were likely debated in the House, and according to a report in a Boston newspaper, Virginia Representative James Madison recommended at least five of the initial six questions.

The six inquiries in 1790 called for questions on gender, race, relationship to the head of household, name of the head of household, and the number of slaves, if any. Marshals in some states went beyond these questions and collected data on occupation and the number of dwellings in a city or town.

The first census in 1790 was managed under the direction of Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State. Marshals took the census in the original 13 states plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was nominal supervisor of the census on Census Day, August 2, 1790.

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National Archives

Once a decade, America comes together to participate in the decennial census. These records are kept confidential for 72 years until they are released by the National Archives. Every 10 years, when a new set of individual records is released, they are eagerly anticipated by genealogists, historians and researchers, creating an opportunity to increase awareness of census statistics.

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