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National Historical Geographic Information System

Technology #20130228

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Historical Census DataGIS-compatible Census DataTime Series
Minnesota Population Center
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Managed By
Andrew Morrow
Technology Licensing Officer

First Database to Hold Pre-1940 Census Data

The National historical geographic Information System (NHGIS) is a unique database that holds GIS-compatible files and statistical information that includes virtually all-aggregate census information for the United States geography of the period 1790–2011. This is the first and currently only database that has census data prior to 1960 in the digital form.

Spatio-Temporal, Socio-Economic and Other Analyses

With unique pre-1960 perfectly aligned census data, this database will allow the user to analyze demographic, spatio-temporal, and socio-economic changes within cities and metropolitan areas for over 100 years. The other benefits of this data, such as the custom coastline, will also allow the user to run other ad-hoc analyses on historical counties and census tracts in the US of period 1790–2011


  • NHGIS is the only database containing digitalized census data prior to 1960
  • Created using the Census Bureau’s TIGER/Line files, NHGIS historical country and tract boundaries align perfectly with one another as well as with other census features
  • Improved data - NHGIS has reconciled misalignment issues presented in the original 1980 data from the Census Bureau
  • Historical county and census tract boundaries are aligned across time, simplifying spatio-temporal analysis
  • Custom coastline that more accurately represents the geography of the United States than other products