State Census Records
Twigs and Trees, June 17, 1999
Census records, you know all about them right? After all, once you get back to an individual alive prior to 1920, you have probably been told to check the census records. Federal census records began in 1790 and have been taken every ten years since. And as genealogists, we rely heavily on them. However, there are times that we wish there was a census taken every five years instead of every ten.
While not an option for all states, there are some very useful census records that not all genealogists are aware of. These census records, the state censuses, are very often taken every ten years as well, however for most states, these were taken between the federal censuses. So in many cases, with the use of state census records, you can track your ancestor in five-year increments.
So in many cases, with the use of state census records, you can track your ancestor in five year increments.
State Censuses Are Available for What States?
As was mentioned earlier, not all states have taken state censuses of any kind. Below is the list of states that do include such records.
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
What Can You Hope to Find?
Unlike federal census records that are the same regardless of what state you are researching in, the state level census records can vary dramatically from year to year and from state to state. Some of the state census records are likely to be simply statistical in nature. We need to keep in mind that these records were not compiled with genealogists in mind. The states had reasons for wanting the information and those reasons greatly affect the information you are likely to find.
Some states, like New York, have very thorough and useful census records. Their 1855 census, for instance, includes the following information:
- names of all members of the household
- age, gender, race
- relationship to head of household
- county in NY, state or country of birth
- marital status
- length of residence in the city or town
- voting status
What's Available Online?
Of course, in our present mindset, the first question that is generally asked pertains to what records are available online. Please, even if the records have been transcribed and posted to the Web, it is essential that you view the original records whenever possible. Mistakes can creep in through human error during transcription. The only way to verify the accuracy of the data is to view the original state census pages.
Currently, there are just a few web sites with state census records available:
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 an award-winning author of several genealogy how-to books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, The Genealogist's Computer Companion, and Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at [email protected].
See more advice from Rhonda in her columns Expert Tips, Tigs and Trees, and Overheard in the Message Boards.