The United States Census is a decennial population count and survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The purpose of the census is to gather demographic, social, economic, and housing information about the population of the United States. The U.S. Constitution mandates the enumeration of the population every ten years to apportion seats in the House of Representatives among the states.
The United States was the first nation in history to institute a periodic national census. Since 1790, the country has tried to count each woman, man, and child every ten years. New Jersey was the state to complete the first ever U.S. census. The 1790 census is the oldest census on record.
The city of Amwell, NJ was the first city listed on the New Jersey 1790 census. This first census is currently kept on record by the U.S. Census Bureau as the oldest census ever recorded. Amwell Township, NJ still participates in the census which makes it the oldest census site in America. Amwell Township was dissolved on April 6, 1846, and split into what is now called East and West Amwell Townships.
The United States Census Bureau recognizes the state of New Jersey to have been the first state to complete the 1790 Census on April 2, 1791. Amwell, NJ is the first New Jersey town listed on the 1790 U.S. Census.
A few days before leaving New York City, the first capital of the young United States of America, Congress passed the First Census Act of 1790. The First Census of the United States comprised an enumeration of the inhabitants of the present states of Connecticut Maine, Ma New Jersey Rhode Island and Virginia. President George Washington had general supervision as head of the U.S. Federal Government.
The 1790 U.S. Census records still exist today making it the oldest census in American history on record. It can be viewed on Digital images of National Archives Microfilm Publication M637, First Census of the United States, 1790 (12 rolls). It can also be seen on popular genealogy websites, including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and others. In 1907-1908, the Bureau of the Census published a series of volumes entitled Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790.
The census began on Aug. 2, 1790, and officially ended nine months later (May 2, 1791) but several states (Rhode Island, Vermont and South Carolina) and the Southwest Territory received extensions. Each marshal received between $100 and $500. Their assistants would receive $1 for every 50-300 people enumerated.
Despite the difficulties and challenges the U.S. marshals faced, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson put the first data tables in an official government document on Oct. 24, 1791, and issued the final report in 1793, after South Carolina's count was completed: The United States had a population of 3,929,214.
The New Jersey Census was the person in charge of the New Jersey census. An Irish immigrant, Thomas Lowrey utilized his business skills and personal wealth to secure a place in his local community and the new American federal government.
By the time President Washington appointed Thomas Lowrey New Jersey’s first U.S. marshal in the fall of 1789, Lowrey was an established businessman who had provided funding for the first church in Flemington, N.J., and had served as a commissary officer in the Continental Army.
Lowrey completed New Jersey’s census return on April 2, 1791 and counted 184,139 people. However, according to The the U.S. Census Bureau, the British destroyed the 1790 census schedules—the documents containing the detailed information about the enumeration—for New Jersey during the War of 1812. As a result, all information about Lowrey’s conduct of the census comes from other documents in the state archives and private collections.
That first Census found that New Jersey, divided then into 13 counties at the time, had 184,139 residents or about 25 persons per square mile. Hunterdon had the largest population with 20,153, closely followed by Sussex (19,500 residents). Cape May was the least populated county with just 2,571 residents.
The most recent U.S. Census was conducted in 2020. The next decennial census is scheduled for 2030. The 2020 Census shows that the resident population of the United States, including the 50 states and the District of Columbia, was 331,449,281 as of April 1, 2020, an increase of 7.4% since the 2010 Census.
The U.S. Census is a crucial tool for understanding the demographic and social composition of the nation, allocating political representation, and distributing resources for public services. Its accuracy and completeness are essential for ensuring fair and equitable representation and resource allocation.
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