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The Census Bureau and American Congregations

In the nineteenth century, the U.S. government collected data about churches as part of its decennial population census, but when Congress created the Census Bureau as a permanent agency in 1902, it authorized it to undertake a separate decennial survey of “religious bodies.” Every ten years from 1906 to 1946, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed congregations, synagogues, and other religious groups in the United States.

While the Census Bureau published summary reports from that data, the forms (or schedules) filled out by each congregation have not been widely used. Only the schedules from the 1926 Census survive, housed in a collection at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC.

These schedules are a rich source of information about American religious institutions in the early twentieth century. They contain a wealth of information about each congregation, including its membership by age and sex, its expenditures on buildings and missions, its minister’s name and whether he or she had gone to seminary, and its denominational affiliation, which the Census Bureau cataloged into 213 different groups. The schedules also include the location of the congregations, usually by county and city or town, and in many cases the street address as well.


86,958 schedules digitized (37.5% of total)

215 denominations

3,112 counties

Schedules per denomination (top 25)

DenominationSchedule count
Southern Baptist Convention22,489
Negro Baptists A11,165
Northern Baptist Convention7,612
Protestant Episcopal Church6,922
Methodist Episcopal Church6,577
Evangelical Church2,665
Norwegian Lutheran Church of America2,547
Disciples of Christ2,152
Seventh-day Adventist Denomination1,980
Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of America: Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States1,945
United Lutheran Church in America1,539
Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of America: Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States1,307
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints1,226
Presbyterian Church in the United States of America1,203
Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod of North America1,179
Free Will Baptists1,025
Evangelical Synod of North America914
Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America872
Congregational Methodist Church773
Church of God in Christ730
Society of Friends (Orthodox)713
Assemblies of God, General Council668
Wesleyan Methodist Connection (or Church) of America619
Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of America: Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the United States of America494
General Baptists465

Schedules per county (top 25)

CountySchedule count
Cook, Illinois627
Allegheny, Pennsylvania432
Los Angeles, California421
Jefferson, Alabama385
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania381
Wayne, Michigan323
Erie, New York262
Cuyahoga, Ohio258
Middlesex, Massachusetts251
New York, New York250
Marion, Indiana243
Kings, New York242
Hamilton, Ohio224
Baltimore City, Maryland220
Essex, New Jersey208
Lancaster, Pennsylvania193
Worcester, Massachusetts186
Westchester, New York180
Luzerne, Pennsylvania179
Franklin, Ohio177
District Of Columbia175
St. Louis, Minnesota171
Providence, Rhode Island166
Suffolk, Massachusetts165
Essex, Massachusetts164