By 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
- 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
|State||Date of state census|
|Connecticut||No state census exists.|
|District of Columbia||1803||1867||1878|
|Idaho||No state census exists.|
|Kentucky||No state census exists.|
|Montana||No state census exists.|
|New Hampshire||No state census exists.|
|Ohio||No state census exists.|
|Pennsylvania||No state census exists.|
|Vermont||No state census exists.|
|West Virginia||No state census exists.|
Information in chart sourced to census.gov