Genealogy: Don’t forget to research U.S. state census records

State censusBy Barry J. Ewell
State censuses were conducted by states in off years in between the Federal census. Every state was in charge of whether and when they would conduct a census.  This article includes a chart the will provide an overview of the census records that are available by state. These records usually contain the same type of information as in the Federal census as well as additional questions that are unique to that state such as naturalization, military service, occupation, state and county of origin, mortality, education and voting status.

Like the Federal census, the state census is a snapshot of the home and its inhabitants at a given time. The information on the state census can be used to construct, confirm, add, and/or delete information from the family profile you have begun building from the Federal census.  For example, I have used the state census to find children that were born and died in between the Federal census, confirmed deaths of wife’s, husbands and grandparents, marriages of children, new marriages for head of households, other locations to search and much more.

The following are examples of information contained in a state or territorial census:

1836 Wisconsin territorial census

  • Head of Household
  • Males over 21
  • Males under 21
  • Females over 21
  • Females under 21

1895 Minnesota  state census

  • City and county where census was taken on 1 June 1895
  • Name of each person who resided with family on 1 June 1895
  • Age of each individual as of last birthday
  • Gender of each person
  • Color of each person
  • Place of birth (U.S. state or territory or country, if foreign born)
  • Length of residence in state in years, months
  • Length of residence in enumeration district
  • Occupation
  • Whether a soldier or sailor during the Civil War
  • Was father of foreign birth
  • Was mother of foreign birth
  • Was household previously enumerated

I have found the state census records to be just as valuable as the U.S. Federal census records in helping me build and develop the family profile for each ancestral generation. For example,

  • Age. The age can be used to gain an approximate birth year, suggest related government and church records.
  • Birthplace. Helps to establish location, former residences and migration patterns for the individual and family.  The locations become target areas for researching records that the many have been created by the family.  Always be asking, “What records could have been created by my ancestor at the time they lived in this place?”
  • Race.  Race can be valuable to finding ethnicity related records.
  • Naturalization. Use this information to find records related to the naturalization process.  They can usually be found in county court records. Naturalization also suggests immigration, such as records that are found at Ellis Island, passenger lists, etc. that are found at the port of entry.
  • Military Service. If the individual served in the military, you will be able to find service records, pension records, enlistment records, and so forth.
  • Occupation. Knowledge of an occupation can lead to find employment records.

Make it practice to always learn about the neighbors.  At a minimum copy information for six families before and six families after your family.  It is rare that these families are not connected to your ancestor as direct or extended family.  When I have lost my family because of moving, I have been able to search on the neighbors and reconnect with my family.  Also make a list of those in the county and state that have the same surname of your family.  Again it is rare that there is not some connection between at least 1 of the families.  This becomes even more important if the surname is really unique. Be exhaustive in your search.  Often I have found needed information about my direct line through the records found in the circle of influence such as family, neighbors, and church group.

These censuses are located at the state archives and/or libraries (note: many are online), through microfilm at LDS Family History Centers, online transcripts of counties within a state from historical societies, and online databases such as Ancestry.com.

Available U.S. state census records

StateDate of state census
Alabama1818182018211823185018551866
1907
Alaska1870187818791881188518871890-95
1904-0719141917
Arizona1866186718691872187418761880
1882
Arkansas1823182918651911
California1788179017961797-98181618361844
1852
ConnecticutNo state census exists.
Delaware1782
District of Columbia180318671878
Florida1825185518661867186818751885
189519351945
Georgia1798180018101827183418381845
18521853185918651879
Illinois1810181818201825183018351840
1845
Hawaii187818901896
IdahoNo state census exists.
Indiana1807185318571871187718831889
1901191319191931
Iowa1836183818441846184718491851
1852185418561885189519051915
1925
Kansas1855186518751885189519051915
1925
KentuckyNo state census exists.
Louisiana18531858
Maine1837
Maryland17761778
Massachusetts1855186518541864187418841888
18941904
Michigan1837184518541864187418841888
18941904
Minnesota1849185318551857186518751885
18951905
Mississippi1801180518081810181618181820
1822182318241825183018331837
1840184118451850185318601866
Missouri1797180318171819184018441852
18561860186418761880
MontanaNo state census exists.
Nebraska185418551856186518691885
Nevada186218631875
New HampshireNo state census exists.
New Jersey1855186518751885189519051915
New Mexico1790182318451885
New York1790182518351845185518651875
1892190519151925
North Carolina1786
North Dakota188519151925
OhioNo state census exists.
Oklahoma18901907
Oregon1842184318451849185018531854
1855185618571858185918651870
1875188518951905
PennsylvaniaNo state census exists.
Rhode Island1774177717821865187518851905
191519251935
South Carolina1825183918691875
South Dakota1885189519051915192519351945
Tennessee1891
Texas18291836
Utah1856
VermontNo state census exists.
Virginia17821783178417851786
Washington1856185718581860187118741877
1878187918801881188318851887
1889189118921898
West VirginiaNo state census exists.
Wisconsin18361838184218461847
Wyoming18751878

Information in chart sourced to census.gov