The 1855 New York State Census is now available online at FamilySearch.org as of February 1st, 2013. This is my personal favorite census, and I am quite sure that it should be yours as well.
As most of you know, New York took a census normally every ten years and it generally fell on the five year increments. So you have the decennial federal census on the 10′s and the NYS on the 5′s, with some exceptions. This means that even though New York does not have those easy to use town records of our New England ancestors for earlier times, we do have the glorious NYS census.
Not all of the 1855 census survived, but the largest percentage of it did and we are very fortunate in that. Here is a list of county films that some or all of the 1855 census exist for. Taken from the LDS website catalog:
New York, State Census, 1855
There are some unique items that were asked as questions by the enumerator, called the “Marshall”.
Here is a list of items that the Marshall asked or recorded:
1 – Dwellings numbered in the order of visitation.
2 – Of what material built.
3 – Value.
4 – Families numbered in the order of their visitation.
5 – Name of every person whose usual place of abode on the first day of June was in this family.
6 – Age.
7 – Sex.
8 – Color – whether black or mulatto. (often left blank meaning white)
9 – Relation to the head of the family.
10 – In what county of this State, or in what other State or Foreign Country born.
11 – Married.
12 – Widowed.
13 – Years resident in this city or town. (Unique to all other census, great for migration studies)
14 – Profession, Trade, or Occupation.
15 – Native voter.
16 – Naturalized voter.
17 – Alien.
18 – Persons of color not taxed.
19 – Persons over 21 years who cannot read and write.
20 – Owners of land.
21 – Deaf, Dumb, Blind, Insane, or Idiotic.
Many of the nuclear families were still intact in 1855, as we had no major upheavals in statewide or nationwide events (such as a war,) to cause the families to split. There was no Social Security, and retirement living in group homes was not a normal thing like it is today. So most of the old folks are quite often found living with one of the younger generations. You will find many fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. living in the household.
When you carefully analyze the answers and you discover that your person was born in a certain county and resided in this location for an exact amount of years, it will help you to go back and look for property records in the previous location.
With the 1850 federal census you do see the name of every person in the household, but often you might make a wrong assumption as to the relationships.
Just a couple of hours ago when I first discovered this census online I immediately looked for my 3rd great grandfather, Stephen CHASE, born 1788 in Washington County and had been living since 1816 in Onondaga County the majority of the time in the town of Lysander. Now I have poured through the 1855 Lysander census microfilms page by page many times and even had gone to the Onondaga County Courthouse, County clerks Office archives, and had looked at the actual census books page by page in Lysander and had never found him in forty or more years.
Boom! In seconds I used the search box for Stephen CHASE in Onondaga county, and there he was in the Town of Van Buren! Well why I had never looked there before is beyond me. In this case, by looking at his neighbors I realize that he owned a retirement home, a framed house in the village of Baldwinsville. He said that he had lived in this town for only one year and even though I know that I had searched land records for him before I will now go back and see if I can find anything for him purchasing property in Van Buren about 1854. So this answers a 40 year old question in my own genealogy and I expect in the coming days I will find a great many answers.
Here is how you easily locate the 1855 NYS census on the LDS website.
Go to www.familysearch.org homepage and wait for it to fully load. Then scroll down to the bottom of the home page in the white area and click on the “United States” and wait for it to load. In the list of states on the left select “New York” and wait for it to load. The reason I say wait is because some of us are impatient and you might click off if you don’t see results right away.
At this time there are 31 enormous collections of New York microfilm images available. Scroll down and click on “New York, State Census, 1855″ – 594,539 images – 01 FEB 2013 (recently added or updated.)
When you find your ancestor in search, take time to record or copy and paste the screen shot of the search results as it even gives you an exact citation to use in your genealogy.
Here is an example of Stephen CHASE’s results:
name: Stephen Chase
event date: 1855
event place: E.D. 2, Van Buren, Onondaga, New York, United States
relationship to head of household: Head
estimated birth year: 1789
family number: 370
line number: 8
film number: 870758
digital folder number: 005207142
image number: 00872
Collection: Stephen Chase, “New York, State Census, 1855″
There are multiple was to use this online resource. The quickest and most obvious is to use the name search boxes. You can narrow things down a bit by searching with a known life event, such as; birth, marriage, residence or death. Or you can search with a relationship such as; spouse or parents.
If you do not locate your person with search, (could be a handwriting error or an indexing problem,) you can select “Browse through 84,493 images.” This will take you to the above reverenced county list and from there you can select the town to look in.
Thank you to all those wonderful LDS members and non-member volunteer indexers for making this most exciting tool available to all!