Censuses and Census Substitutes, including tax records

Background Reading, Lists, and Locations

Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. Government Publications Department (GPD) 016.9291 Un3g2 (all call numbers are Free Library of Philadelphia call numbers). Essential reading.

The Source. Social Science & History Department (SSH) 929.1072 So84a2. Good essay on censuses.

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. SSH 929.1072 G859r. Good essay on censuses. Shows what schedules are MISSING by state.

The Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook. SSH 929.1072 C882g3. Good essays on federal and state censuses. Good essay on census substitutes by state. Gives census microfilm purchase and rental sources.

American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790. SSH/STX 312.0973 G831a. Gives sources of population data before 1790.

American Census Handbook SSH 016.9291 K32a. Bibliography of federal and state census records and indexes by state. Includes censuses and indexes available electronically. Especially useful for bibliographies of censuses of African Americans and Native Americans.

Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. SSH 929.1072 R245b. Gives locations of state census records.

United States Census Compendium: a Directory of Census Records, Tax Lists, Poll Lists, Petitions, Directories, etc. Which Can Be Used as a Census. SSH 016.9293 St41u.

Catalog of U.S. Census Publications, 1790-1945, 1946-1972 (GPD C 56.222/22-2:), Annually after 1972 (GPD C 3.163/3:). Describes all of the documents published by the Bureau of the Census.

Genealogical Evidence. SSH 929.1 St48g. Discusses the reliability of census records.

Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP)

Researching your Family History at the Parkway Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia. Handout at SSH Reference desk and online.

Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians. SSH 929.1072 H592y. Discusses what is in census records, where to find them, and how to do research.

Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. Map Department (MAP) 911.73 T393m.

Genealogy of Philadelphia County Subdivisions. MAP 912.7481 P5392g.

Philadelphia Street Name Changes. SSH 917.4811 Mo2.

In many cases, it is difficult to use censuses effectively without using city directories and ward maps. Philadelphia and suburban Philadelphia city directories are available in the Newspapers and Microfilm Center. Philadelphia and suburban Philadelphia maps are available in the Map Department.

FLP subscribes to HeritageQuest Online, a genealogy database that includes the U.S. federal censuses. This resource is available at all FLP locations, and outside the Library with a library card number and PIN. It can be accessed on the databases web page under Biographical Resources. FLP also has microfilm copies of the federal censuses for Philadelphia only. The census microfilm and indexes are in the Government Publications Department.

1790 Yes Yes
1800 Yes Yes
1810 Yes Yes
1820 Yes Yes
1830 Yes Yes
1840 Yes Yes
1850 Yes Yes
1860 Yes Yes
1870 (1) Yes Yes
1870 (2) Yes No
1880 Yes No (But see below)
1890 No No (But see below)
1900 Yes No (But see below)
1910 Yes No (But see below)
1920 Yes No (But see below)
1930 Yes No (But see below)


1790: Heads of Families: Pennsylvania. C 3.11:P 38. For persons residing within the CITY limits of Philadelphia in 1790, it is very important to see the census on microfilm because places of residence and occupations are shown for many of these residents. Other indexes in the Heads of Families series are available for Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia. Use the Heads of Families series in conjunction with A Century of Population Growth From the First Census of the U.S. to the Twelfth 1790-1900, C 3.2:P 81, which lists the surnames of heads of households for the entire U.S. in 1790 in one continuous alphabetical list and shows the distribution of surnames by state. All of the Heads of Families volumes are collectively indexed in the American Genealogical and Biographical Index. SSH P929 Am31.

1800: There are two indexes to this census: Pennsylvania in 1800, 929.3 St41p, and Pennsylvania 1800 Census, 929.3 J137p. See the front matter in these indexes.

1810: The index is Index to 1810 Census of Pennsylvania. 929.3 Oh3i. See the front matter in this index.

1820: The index is Pennsylvania 1820 Census Index. 929.3748 J137p. See the front matter in this index.

1830: The index is Pennsylvania 1830 Census Index. 929.3748 J137p 1830. See the front matter in this index.

1840: The index is Pennsylvania 1840 Census Index. 929.3748 J137p 1840. See the front matter in this index. In 1840, persons drawing pensions based on a veteran's military service were listed. A list of these pensioners was published as A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services.... 929.34 Un34c. This list should be used with A General Index to a Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services.... 973.34 G286g.

1850: The index is Pennsylvania 1850 Census Index. 929.3748 J137p 1850. See the front matter in this index. There is also a separate index for Philadelphia: "Heads of Families" Index, 1850 Federal Census, City of Philadelphia. 929.3 P386h.

1860: There are four separate indexes for Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania 1860 Philadelphia. Gov Pub Soc. A 22-1:P53. Pennsylvania 1860 East. Gov Pub Soc. A 22-1:E77. Pennsylvania 1860 West. Gov Pub Soc. A 22-1:W52. Pennsylvania 1860 Pittsburgh. Gov Pub Soc. A 22-1:P687. See the front matter in these indexes.

1870: In 1870 there were two census enumerations taken in Philadelphia. The index to the first enumeration is Philadelphia, PA 1870 Census Index. 929.3748 P53p. Look at the addenda in the front of this index for Wards 27 and 28. There is no index to the second enumeration. There are, however, descriptions on microfilm of many of the second enumeration boundaries. These boundaries are also shown graphically in a series of drawings at the Map Department.

1880: The SOUNDEX index to this census in not available at FLP. However, An Urban Finding Aid for the 1880 Federal Population Census of Philadelphia, 304.6021 St62u, is available. This document gives enumeration district boundaries for 1880 and, in many cases, is a better way to find persons and families on this census. Also see Report on the Social Statistics of Cities, 1880 census, vol. 18, part 1, pp. 773-849 at the Government Publications Department for an excellent description of Philadelphia at the time of the 1880 census.

1890: The 1890 census population schedules for most of the United States and almost all of Pennsylvania were destroyed in a fire. However, a special schedule for 1890 is available at FLP that lists military pensioners (or any other person drawing a pension based on a military person's service) who lived in Philadelphia at the time of the census. To use these microfilm reels effectively, you must know the ward and enumeration district in which the pension recipient lived. This can usually be determined by using city directories and the 1890 enumeration district descriptions on microfilm. The special schedules are arranged on three microfilm rolls as follows:

Roll 78: ED 1 (1st Wd.) to ED 152 (8th Wd. - part);
ED 300 (16th Wd.) to ED 499 (23d Wd. - part);
ED 640 (In SE corner of the 28th Wd.);
Institutions: Hospitals, the Navy Yard, etc.
Roll 79: ED 152 (8th Wd. - part) to ED 299 (15th Wd.);
Roll 80: ED 500 (23rd Wd. - part), to ED 821 (34th Wd.);
ED 640 is near the end of Roll 78.

 1900, 1910, 1920: The Soundex indexes for these censuses are not available at FLP. Enumeration district boundary descriptions are available on microfilm for 1900, 1910, and 1920. Use city directories to determine the street address and ward where the family lived, consult the enumeration district boundary descriptions on microfilm to determine the most likely enumeration districts, place the appropriate reel for the ward on the microfilm reader, scroll to the most likely enumeration districts, then look down the left side of the census schedules until you find the street address. For the 1910 census, use Philadelphia Enumeration Districts of 1910, GPD 917.4811 K818p. Look up the street name and house number to get the enumeration district, and use Appendix II to get the microfilm reel number. Load the reel on the reader and look down the left side of the census schedules until you find the street address.

1930: Soundex indexes are available for the following states only: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (part), Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia (part). None of these indexes are available at the Free Library. There is no index for PA. To find someone in Philadelphia in the 1930 census: find out where they lived by using a City Directory and then look in Philadelphia Enumeration Districts of 1930. GPD 917.4811 K818p3. Look up the street name and house number to get the enumeration district, and use Appendix II to get the microfilm reel number. Load the reel on the reader and look down the left side of the census schedules until you find the street address.

Septennial Census of Pennsylvania. GPD Gov Pub States P 38-5321: microfilm.Census of Montgomery County (1786, 1793, 1800), Northampton County (1786, 1800), Philadelphia City (1793, 1800), Philadelphia County (1793), and York County (1786, 1793, 1800).

Age Search Information. GPD C 3.2:Ag 3/2. Explains how to get some very limited information from the Bureau of the Census for years after 1930.

Tax records are frequently used census substitutes. The Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, vols. 14-16 contain Philadelphia County tax lists for the years 1769-1783. These volumes are indexed in vols. 27-29 of the same series. SSH. Also see "Taxables in Chestnut, Middle, and South Wards, Philadelphia: 1754" in Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, v. 21, 1958-60, pp. 159-196 and "Taxables in the City of Philadelphia, 1756" inPennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, v. 22, 1961-62, pp. 3-41 and "Taxables in Chestnut, Walnut, and Lower Delaware Wards, Philadelphia, 1767" in Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, v. 22, 1961-62, pp. 170-85. SSH.

National Archives - Mid-Atlantic Branch (NARA)

This archive has the federal censuses for the entire United States 1790-1880, 1900-1930, and those parts of the 1890 census that are still in existence. It also has various indexes including the Soundex indexes. NARA'sCensus Records web page explains the variety of information available in censuses and describes the records held by NARA. They have subscriptions to the Ancestry and HeritageQuest Online web sites that can be used free of charge on-site.

Some other NARA pages that are helpful for searching the censuses are:

NARA's genealogy page: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/research_room/genealogy/index.html.

Mid-Atlantic branch's page: http://www.archives.gov/midatlantic/.

NARA's guide to the 1930 census: http://1930census.archives.gov/.

NARA's 1930 City Directories available: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/census/1930/city-directories.html.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP)

Federal Census Records at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (PDF). Lists HSP census holdings and indexes, and has an interesting bibliography. HSP has the 1790-1900 censuses on microfilm for all of Pennsylvania, and pensioners in 1890.

Also see "Census Substitutes for Philadelphia," Penn in Hand, (Newsletter of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania), Vol. X, #1, Fall 1988, at HSP.

Pennsylvania State Archives (PAA)

Guide to Genealogical Sources at the Pennsylvania State Archives. SSH 016.9293 P384g. Lists holding of the Pennsylvania Septennial Tax Lists. For the CITY of Philadelphia these lists are available for 1793, and 1800. For Philadelphia COUNTY, they are available for 1793.

Philadelphia City Archives (PAR)

Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the City and County of Philadelphia. SSH 016.9748 P53d. Useful for tax lists that can serve as census substitutes. PHA is the best place to direct questions concerning existing Philadelphia tax records.

Philadelphia Early Tax Records. SSH shelved with 929.3 W. Contains a description of early tax records available at PHA.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)

The LDS catalog is the largest and most comprehensive catalog of genealogical material in the world. Microfilmed censuses and the indexes to them as well as tax lists are available for loan at a nominal cost. The catalog can be searched on the Internet at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp.

LDS produces and sells inexpensive research outlines for each U.S. state. They are especially valuable for getting an overview of federal, state, and local censuses by state; they can be ordered at any Family History Center or via the Internet. The 1880 U.S. census and index on CD can be examined at any Family History Center.


Ancestry. At http://www.ancestry.com/. Note the census indexes and images available. This is a subscription service.

Family Tree Maker. At http://www.genealogy.com/uscensussub.html. Note the census indexes and images available. This is a subscription service.

HeritageQuest Online. FLP subscribes to this genealogical database that includes census and other records. It can be accessed outside the Library with a library card number and PIN on the FLP web site athttp://search.freelibrary.org/advSearch.cfm under Biographical Resources.

Cyndi's List. http://www.cyndislist.com/census.htm.

Census Links. http://www.censuslinks.com.

Census Online Links. http://www.census-online.com/links.

USGenWeb Census Project. http://www.us-census.org/inventory.

1930 Enumeration Districts. http://stevemorse.org/census. Search for enumeration districts in the 1930 census by street names.