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Overheard in GenForum: Federal Census County Index in USA
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

March 28, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Is there such a thing as an index to counties for the Federal Census? It took me ages to find the page for Attica in Seneca County, Ohio in the 1920 census. -- Lewis

A: While most of us can use the Soundex for the 1920 census to locate our ancestors, there are times when we would prefer to spend time going page by page through a census looking for all of the individuals who share the same last name as our ancestor. Other times, we are on the lookout for surnames that married into our ancestor's family. Going page by page through the census, makes this easier.

Beginning in 1880, the cities and counties were becoming so big, that each was divided into enumeration districts. These districts where the area of the city or county of which a specific enumerator was responsible for canvassing to record the information on the inhabitants. Because the population was getting so big, we often find that a county takes up four or more rolls of microfilm. Locating a specific township in those microfilms is much easier when the enumeration districts are known.

Converting city to enumeration district may save time.

Enumeration District Descriptions

The National Archives has published the Census Descriptions of Geographic Subdivisions and Enumeration Districts for 1830-1950. This is microfilm publication T1224. Of the 156 microfilms that make up this set, you will find that the 1920 census enumeration districts are found on rolls 41 to 60. These films are available from the Family History Library to your local Family History Center. Below is the listing of microfilm numbers and the states found on each.

Note Film
Number
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas FHL Film number
1842702  
California Supervisor's Districts 1-9 ; Colorado FHL Film number
1842703  
Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho FHL Film number
1842704  
Illinois Supervisor's Districts 1-2 (Cook & Lake Counties) ; Illinois Supervisor's Districts 3-17 FHL Film number
1842705  
Indiana Supervisor's District 1-13 ; Iowa FHL Film number
1842706  
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana FHL Film number
1842707  
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts Supervisor's Districts 1-8 FHL Film number
1842708  
Michigan Supervisor's Districts 1-11, Minnesota FHL Film number
1842709  
Mississippi, Missouri Supervisor's Districts 1-14 FHL Film number
1842710  
Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico FHL Film number
1842711  
New Jersey, New York Supervisor's Districts 1-2 (Manhattan and Bronx) ; New York Supervisor's District 3 (part) (Kings County) FHL Film number
1842712  
New York Supervisor's Districts 3 (part) and 4 (Queen's and Richmond) ; District 5 (Nassau and Suffolk); District 6 (Westchester); District 7 (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland); District 8 (Columbia, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster); District 9 (Albany); District 10 (Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, Washington); District 11 (Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Schenectady); District 12 (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence); District 13 (Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oswego); District 14 (Herkimer and Oneida); District 15 (Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego); District 16 (Cortland and Onondaga); District 17 (Cayuga, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Yates); District 18 (Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins); District 19 (Monroe); District 20 (Genesee, Livingston, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming); District 21 (Erie); District 22 (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua). FHL Film number
 1842713
North Carolina, North Dakota FHL Film number
1842714  
Ohio Supervisor's Districts 1-19 FHL Film number
1842715  
Oklahoma, Oregon FHL Film number
1842716  
Pennsylvania Supervisor's Districts 1-24 FHL Film number
1842717  
Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee FHL Film number
1842718  
Texas Supervisor's Districts, 1-18 ; Utah and Vermont. FHL Film number
1842719  
Virginia Supervisor's Districts 1-10 ; Washington FHL Film number
1842720  
West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands FHL Film number
1842721  

Finding Attica

The enumeration districts for Ohio can be found on roll 54 inclusive. While we tend to ignore the Supervisor's Districts as found on the census pages, they are important when searching the enumeration district descriptions. The counties are listed alphabetical only within their specific supervisor's district. In the case of Ohio, there are 19 supervisor's districts. Seneca is found in supervisor's district six. At the beginning of the roll of film, there is an index of the counties found in supervisor's districts 1 through 11, which are part of the first volume of this roll. Supervisor's districts 12 through 19 are found on the next volume with another index to those. It was through these indexes that I located Seneca county.

The next step was to go to through the microfilm until I reached Seneca county. Unlike some of the counties, this one is only on two rolls of microfilm, so not as horrendous as some of them can be. However, there are 51 enumeration districts for Seneca county, and that is a lot to scan through looking for a specific township.

Using the enumeration district descriptions, once in supervisor's district six, it is just a matter of looking for Attica. Most of the townships are listed in alphabetical order. The problem with Attica is that is not a township, but a village. Therefore it was listed under the township of which it is a part.

As a result the first pass through the enumeration district descriptions for Seneca county, I overlooked Attica. In going back I began to read through each entry instead of just scanning the township names.

In true genealogical fashion, Attica village is listed in one of the last enumeration districts for Seneca county, under the township of Venice. The entry in the enumeration district description looks like:

No. of
E.D.
Description of
Enumeration District
County Rate of
Pay
Instructions
141 Venice township (part of) including Attica village.
All north of north section line of Sections 7 to 12 inclusive
Seneca E18 Attica village should be shown separately on schedules.

In Conclusion

While not giving you the exact page number, the enumeration district descriptions at least narrow down your search in the census to one or two enumeration districts at the most. You may be able to find these enumeration districts at your local public library. Those with large genealogy sections often have this set of microfilms available.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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