Posts Tagged ‘New York Census’

New York State Census; 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915 and 1925.

There were New York State censuses taken as well as federal census. So why can’t I get the films on inter-library loan (ILL) from the NYS Library?

Well here is the answer as I have interpreted it.

There either “might” have been duplicate copies of the NYS census of 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915 and 1925, or only single copies, but as I understand it those that were being held in the State’s possession in Albany were all destroyed in the NYS Library fire of 1911.

So, where are the ones that remain? Generally they are held by the various County Clerks, or are supposed to be. I believe some of them might have migrated off the premises and might be held by various historical societies, or local libraries. If you want to view the “original” books you should start by checking with the County Clerk.

So in the 1950’s (I’m guessing,) the Mormon Church’s microfilming crews went to all of the NYS County Clerks offices and started to film many different types of documents, but certainly not all. I believe that all of the various county census that did get filmed were all done by LDS, and not filmed by the state, therefore LDS would retain the rights of distribution and they do not let the NYS Library send them out on ILL.

The films are available at all of the LDS Family History Centers (LDS FHC) through the microfilm rental program, whereby the film can be sent for at Salt Lake City and then viewed at your local LDS FHC. The cost of the rental is very nominal.

So what are you apt to find and how are the films arranged?

The 1825, 1835 & 1845 census list only the Head of the Household (HOH ) and all of the rest of the persons residing in that house (not necessarily related,) are grouped by ages and sex, quite similar to the U.S. federal census pre-1850. That being said, the early state census are very helpful in determining your ancestor’s relative standing in the community as there are in-depth questions relating to agriculture, commerce and manufacturing. You will be able to compare your ancestor’s answers with the neighbors, sort of to see if they were “Keeping up with the Jones’s.”

Then comes my personal favorite. The 1855 NYS census is a goldmine of information.
All of the people in the household were listed by name and each is shown as to how they relate, or not, to the HOH. Here you will find many surprises because grandparents, aunts and uncles, in-laws, boarders, servants, etc. living in the same household are described. Everyone was asked which specific county in NYS they were born, or which other state or country, and then there was a question as to how many years they have resided in this specific town. This census helps to put more family groups together than any other, IMHO.

The 1865 census has some handy details about the men who served in the military. 1875 is also very helpful. Then due to political reasons that I am still trying to dig out the answer on, there was no state census taken in 1885, and the next one was taken in 1892, due to a new governor coming in and ordering it so. The 1892 will list names, but other than that it lacks a lot of detail. The houses are not delineated and relationships are not given.

The 1905, 1915 and 1925 are back to showing housing groups and all names. Very helpful.

If you use these in conjunction with the federal census, and city or county business directories, tax lists, property records, and other items, you can put a pretty good picture together on your families.

Not all of the state census exist. I have made a chart of those that are known to have some parts available and you can take a look at our website click on
“NY COUNTIES & CENSUS” and you will see those that I have been able to locate.
When on that chart, if you click on the county name, it will take you directly to that specific county’s GenWeb site, where “a few” of these census have been indexed or transcribed.

The very best place to look for what is available on film is to go to the LDS Family History Library Catalog at, click on “Library” the click on “Family History Library Catalog” and do a “Place Search” for the county of interest. You will be shown the full list of what they have available, along with the film numbers, and you can then order them from your local FHC.

There is another possibility to locate these state census on film at a local genealogical reference library within the county of interest, or perhaps the county historian’s office. Ask around. They are all available to view at the NYS Library in Albany.

A “few” of these films have been indexed, or transcribed in full, and published either in print form or on the Internet. You will have to do some searching because each county is different. Some genealogical societies have taken these on as a project, and some kind souls have done it on their own. There is also a chance that some of them might start to show up on some of the subscription services like

I recall that the Central New York Genealogical Society published the 1825 Washington county census, and probably others, in their periodical “Tree Talks.” You might want to check the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) which is available on-line through HeritageQuest. Though it is just an index, you will be able to find those parts that are known to have been published in periodicals and where to find them.

So I hope some part of this helps and you all have great success. Let me know if you do.

Was the New York State Census created for Genealogists?

The New York State Census, surely was created just for future genealogists, right?

Wrong! I know this is hard to believe, but all of these civil record tools that we use, such as land records, estate records, tax lists, and census returns, were not created for us! It will help you to think about why and when these type of documents were created and to what purpose they would have been used at the time.

The federal census was taken every ten years by law in order to give the government a snapshot of the condition and growth of the nation. There was a 72 year restriction put on the use of the actual names and private information, however the statistical data was usually available within the following year. For instance you can find data all over the web about the year 2000 census, but the names will not be available until 2073. The 1930 census is the newest available at this time and the 1940 will be available in 2013.

Some states took their own census at various time periods, and on various schedules. New York State did enact a state census law and surveys were made also every ten years, however it was created usually on the “5” year in between the federal census. Here is the list of known state census that you might find; 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, “1892,” 1905, 1915, and 1925.

The 1911 fire at the state library in Albany was devastating to a great many original manuscript documents and the copies that the state had of the census were mostly all destroyed, or so I’ve been told. There are still a great many partial census returns that do exist, and all that have been located were microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) microfilming program. Copies of those microfilms were deposited with the NYS Library and may be viewed there but are not available for inter-library loan. They may also be viewed on film at any LDS Family History Center near you.

The original copies of these census returns are held at the county level and if you want to view the original document I would suggest you start with the county clerk. Not all of these returns exist and many are incomplete.

You might get lucky and find your family on some part of the following known returns. 1825, 1835, 1845, (those three are very good for agricultural information and will give you a comparative picture of your target family’s net worth. But they only show names of the heads of household and the rest of the residents are enumerated in age groupings, but no names.) Then 1855 (my personal favorite, gives the name of every person in the household including the relationship to the head of household, and another valuable piece of data is that it asked what county in NYS the person was born, or which other state or country, and it asks how many years resident in this specific town.) Then 1865 (gives information on men who served in the military.) 1875 is also very detailed, no census was taken in 1885, and the next one breaks the “5” year increment pattern, and was taken in 1892.

Some people believe that it was because the 1890 federal census was damaged in a fire, however that fire was many years later. There is a very detailed description of why the 1892 census was taken that was written by Melinda Yates and published in the journal of the Silvio O. Conte Friends of the National Archives, “Archival Anecdotes.” I am attempting to obtain a copy of that article and will describe it in better detail later. Essentially it was a political thing. One group in power did not want the expense of a census and then when a new Governor was elected, a census was ordered immediately. The 1892 census is not as helpful in many ways, because it just shows a running list of names of people and does not delineate the houses. It will give you the name of each person, their age and country of birth.

Then 1905, 1915, and 1925 census were taken and the families are again grouped within houses.

Here is an excellent website provided by Joe Biene that will describe in further detail NYS census information.

Here is a website of the Silvio O. Conte Friends of the National Archives that describes many finding aids for the NYS census.

The New York State Library has a webpage that is extremely helpful.

Stephen P. Morse’s “One Step” method of searching also has some very good details on the various NYS census.

My own Upstate New York Genealogy website, has a button on the left hand side marked “NY COUNTIES & CENSUS.” When you click it you will go to a chart of all of the county names, the date the county was formed, the parent county, and a list of known state census that exist. If you click on the county name it will take you directly to that county’s GenWeb site.

Remember not all parts of each census are extant. For instance, the 1865 census for Onondaga county did survive, except for the very first book which included the towns of Camillus, Cicero, Clay and DeWitt. My old friend Dick Wright of the Onondaga Historical Association told me that he remembered doing some research in the county clerk’s office back in the 1950’s and that particular volume was in a suitcase that one of the county workers had been taking home with him at night to transcribe some Civil War information out of. As I have no reason to doubt him, I suspect that is a true story and we can only hope that some day it might be located in someone’s attic or personal library, and returned.

To find out specific dates and towns that exist, the best place to go is the LDS Family History Library’s on-line library catalog at and do a “PLACE” search.

Dick Hillenbrand – Upstate New York Genealogy –

ps: It was pointed out by a reader that I neglected to mention William Dollarhide’s book “New York State Censuses & Substitutes.” Well it is a ‘must read!’ Se our eview of it at

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