There are many ways to do census entry in RootsMagic. This post is about how I enter mine.

There is a right way, a wrong way and then there is my way.

That’s not to say that other ways are wrong, since really, there is no wrong way, but I’ve found this way works for me. You might prefer your own way, you might find my way works better, or you might just find one nugget in the following tutorial that you can add to your own way.

Fact Types

I chose to create a separate fact type for each Census. Since I have British, Canadian and US entries, I have created fact types for 1841, 1850, 1851, 1860, 1861, etc. While it is possible to create a ‘family’ entry, I use the ‘individual’ facts to record the census because while I like the idea of fact ‘sharing’, I’ve found that it doesn’t translate well in a GEDCOM file.

Census Fact by Year

Having a fact for each census year lets me easily see when I missing one and lets me create custom reports such as a list of all people alive in 1861 with no ‘Census 1861’ fact type.

I recently changed my sentence template for the Census fact types to take advantage of the description field while not making it mandatory since many of my entries do not have a description. Now as I’m working on people in my tree, I’m adding the description since I find it helps with my research.

I have only one role, Principal, and my sentence template reads like this:

[person] appeared in the census< as [Desc:Plain]>< [Date]>< [PlaceDetails]>< [Place]>.

Where I’ve entered the description, the sentence for this fact now appears as something like:

William Bond appeared in the census as son of head of household on 7 Apr 1861 at 38 Oxford Street in Preston, Lancashire, England.

If I haven’t entered a description, it appears as:

William Bond appeared in the census on 7 Apr 1861 at 38 Oxford Street in Preston, Lancashire, England.

Census or Residence?
Ancestry users are probably used to seeing censuses recorded as residence. You might want to check out my post Census or Residence on this subject.

Census Source Templates

Census Source Template

My source templates are also created by census year and also by place and are customized to make entry much faster. I use the same source template to create any source citation for that year and place. My usual source for census records is Ancestry so I’ve added a field where I can simply paste the source information from there.

Source Entry

To enter the source, I simply note if I’ve downloaded the image and when I did so and then paste in the source information taken directly from Ancestry. If I’ve downloaded the image, I attach it as a media item directly to the fact so that I can more easily view it later.

In my source template, I have entered source comments about the census such as what questions the enumerator asked, the rules for recording the information, any designated short forms used, any known problems with the census including missing records, etc. This makes for a good reference that is available right where you need it, right when you need it.

Within the source information, I include the date the census was taken and when entering the fact, this is the date I use, rather than just the year.

Detail Entry

As an easy reference, I transcribe the census entry into the detail text field of the source citation. This too is a great reference later when I’m doing my research and want to check the members of the household quickly.

I can choose to include or exclude this extra detail when printing reports.

How I Enter the Census Fact and Sources

Over the years, I’ve developed a quick entry method to enter a census entry for a whole family in a relatively quick manner.

I start by adding the fact to the head of household. This part takes the longest since everything is entered from scratch. The following steps will walk through entering the 1861 census for my Bond family.

  1. Add the relevant fact type, in this case Census 1861
  2. Enter the date of the census
  3. Enter the place
  4. Enter the address in the place details when available.
  5. Enter the description such as ‘head of household’, ‘son of head of household’, ‘servant’, etc.

Next I enter the source.

  1. Select the relevant source template, in this case, Census 1861 England
  2. Enter whether I downloaded it (if I enter nothing in this field, the default is ‘accessed’)
  3. Enter the date I accessed or downloaded
  4. Paste the source information from the ancestry record
  5. Switch to the detail text tab and quickly transcribe the whole entry separating lines with semi-colons

The detail entry for this family reads:

Parish of Preston, Municipal Borough of Preston, Municipal Ward of St John, Parliamentary Borough of Preston, Town of Preston, Ecclesiastical District of St. James. #343, 38 Oxford Street, Thomas Bond, Head, Married, age 37, Agriculturer Machinist, Lancashire, Salford; Alice Bond, Wife, Married, age 42, Lancashire, Westby with Plumpton; William Bond, Son, Unmarried, age 17, Plumber, b Lancashire, Kirkham; Frances Bond, Daughter, Unmarried, age 14, Cotton Weaver, b Lancashire, Preston

Once the source citation is entered and double checked, I memorize it for later by clicking the memorize button.

Keyboard Shortcuts!

To enter the next person on the census, I go to their edit person screen and repeat the fact entry, changing the description appropriately. Then comes the magic of keyboard commands! To add the memorized source to this second person, I simply hold down the ALT key and press S, P and O in succession.


Additional Information


For anyone who is listed as having an occupation, I also add an occupation fact to the person and use the same keyboard shortcuts to add the census source to that fact.

Birth Date and Place

If this entry gives me a birth year and place that I don’t already have, I also enter a fact for birth and use the same keyboard shortcuts to add the census source to that fact. I enter the year only in the date field and preface it with the word ‘about’. This lets me know that it is an approximation based on age.

Completed Entry

Completed Source Citation

About vs Estimated for Birth, etc.
I use ‘about’ for a year based on a census date such as ‘about 1832’. I use ‘about’ for a month and year based on a birth registration in the UK which is by quarter such as ‘about June 1839’ for a birth registered in the 2nd quarter of 1839. I use ‘estimated’ when I’ve just guessed at the birth year based on other facts such as the marriage date such as ‘estimated 1740’.

How Do You Do a Census Entry?

If you have your own tried and true way of doing census entries, I’d love to hear it about it in the comments below!

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  1. Wow! Am I looking at this right? The completed entry appears to have details about every member of the family all under the head of household? What is gained by this? I am always willing to learn new ways but this seems to cause a lot of clutter in each person’s fact screen. How do the reports turn out, or do you have a lot of custom reports?

    • Each person has only their own one fact for each census. Only the detail text in the source entry shows all the household members and you don’t see that unless you open the source screen. I find having it there helpful when doing further research on any of the family members because I can open the source screen with a click and see where the person was at each census and who they were with. The reports come out as normal. I often use the narrative reports and depending on the purpose of the report, I can turn on or off showing the source detail text in the end notes.

    • I haven’t encountered that as yet. Most of my ancestors are from the UK. I have only one family who moved to Washington in the US but not until the early 1900s.

      I think I would probably do the same for State Censuses but I can see that there would be a lot of them. When you go to the ‘Add’ screen for facts, you can begin typing the name of the fact to highlight it (much like the person index on the left side of the screen.

      I think I would name them as Census + State Code + Year so for example ‘Census WA 1890’ for the 1890 census for Washington State. That would let me type ‘Census WA’ to get to the right part of the list when I wanted to add that state’s census.

  2. I recently purchased RM8 and I have been searching for articles about how to use it. I came across this post, which I found very interesting. I have a couple of points which you may be able to assist me with:-

    1. I have tried to edit an existing Census source (imported from Ancestry) but I cannot find the custom sentence. Do you know if it has changed in RM8 or is it user error?

    2. How do I create a “custom reports such as a list of all people alive in 1861 with no ‘Census 1861’ fact type”?

    Once again thank you for such an interesting article.


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