From the standpoint of a genealogist and a historian, I want a census. I want an accurate census and I want certain questions asked. As a Republican, I do not find a census intrusive, unconstitutional, or the sign of things to come.
Census records are important when one is proving a lineage for a historical or genealogical society. They are important when one is doing historical research. They are a moment in time, that tells us where a person was on a specific day. The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) requires a census every 10 years, of everyone residing in the United States. For those conspiracy minded individuals and libertarians who think they need not give more than the basic name, rank, and serial number, they are showing their abject historical ignorance.
The first US Census in 1790 required the name of the head of the household. Also counted were the number of free white males 16 and up, number of free white males under 16, number of free white females, number of all free persons, except for Indians not taxed. Also counted were the number of slaves.
In 1800 the same questions were asked, only the age groups were further subdivided. Free white males, free white females and slaves were counted. Indians were not. Only the name of the head of the household was taken.
In 1810 the same questions were asked. Only the name of the head of the household was taken. No other names were important. No Indians were counted.
In 1820 the count was further expanded. Also asked was the name of the head of the family, persons who are foreigners who were not naturalized, persons engaged in agriculture, persons engaged in commerce, persons engaged in manufacturing. There was a breakdown of ages male and female slaves. There was also for the first time a category for free male and female “colored” persons with a breakdown of ages. Indians still were not counted.
In 1830 they kept it simple. They wanted the name of the head of the family, address, number of free white males and females, number of slaves and free colored persons, and the number of deaf and dumb with a break-down of ages. Also counted were the blind and those not naturalized.
In 1840 the same questions were asked, along with the number of insane and idiotic in public and private charge. They needed the number of persons in each family employed, number of schools an scholars, number of white persons over 20 who could not read and write. Also counted were the number of pensioners for Revolutionary or military service.