What is a "census?"
According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is "An official enumeration of the population of a country or district, with various statistics relating to them. A census of the population has been taken every tenth year since 1790 in the United States of America, since 1791 in France, and since 1801 in Great Britain. In Ireland the earliest census was in 1813, since which it has been taken simultaneously with that of Great Britain."
There are also other types of censuses in addition to those for population (for instance, agriculture, economics).
What does "place" mean to the Census Bureau?
Learn more about how the Census Bureau defines geographical areas in Geographic Area Reference Manual.
History of the Census in the United States (beginning in 1790).
Searching by Place
American Factfinder An online tool from the Census Bureau to search for a variety of data for all geographic levels.
Census Demographic Profiles Census resource that provides four tables showing population, social, economic, and housing characteristics for each community. Select a state, type in a place name, click on the link for the desired place. Brings up an easy to read and print .pdf file for each of the four tables. [Tip: type in an asterisk * to bring up a list of all places in a state.]
Example of a township vs village or town
Searching Zip Codes
ZIPskinny (ZIPSkinny.com). Commerical site that provides basic demographic data from Census 2000 and comparisons with nearby Zip Codes.
Profiles of Illinois, 2011 Print source
Floor 2 Reference Collection -- Call Number = HA 345 .P76 2011
Sourcebook of ZIP code demographics (2009) Print source
Floor 2 Reference Collection -- Call Number = HA203 .S66 2009