A census of the population of the United States has been taken every ten years by the federal government since 1790. Copies of this census for Pennsylvania are available at the State Archives for the years 1790 to 1930. Census schedules are restricted for seventy-two years after the census is taken in order to protect the privacy of the individuals surveyed.
Note: reference archivists cannot search or copy federal census records.
The first federal census, taken in 1790, is available in published form as Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania (Washington, 1908). Entries include the name of head of household, number of free white males under 16 years of age, number of free white females, number of all other free persons, and number of slaves. This book is located on the reference bookshelves.
1800 to 1920 Census
Pennsylvania census schedules for 1800-1880 and 1900-1920 are available on microfilm found in the cabinets marked Census. The 1890 census was destroyed by a fire in 1921. Entries are arranged by county and thereafter by subdivision. Published indexes for the years 1800 to 1870 are available on the reference bookshelves. These indexes list the name of the head of household, a four letter code for the county of residence, page number on the microfilm, and census division. Types of data differ from decade to decade. See list below for description of data types to be found for each year.
Census schedules for 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 are indexed by the Soundex system. Both the Soundex index and corresponding census are found on microfilm, with the Soundex film found directly following the census year film. For an explanation of the Soundex Coding System, see the Soundex sheets located on top of the Census cabinets.
Other Census Records Available on Microfilm
Record Group 7: Records of the General Assembly
Septennial Census Returns, 1779-1863 - This series contains returns for a census conducted every seven years, enumerating taxpayers for the purpose of determining representation in the General Assembly. Only about 11% of the original records have survived and the only information provided in most of the surviving returns is the name of the taxpayer, though occasionally the occupation is also given. The style and details of enumeration varies for the different counties and in different periods of time. All counties have lists of "Taxable inhabitants" and "freemen", while others also include "inmates". Commencing in 1800, the age, name, gender and place of residence of each slave is also frequently given and occasionally the name of the slave's owner. Last names of slaves are usually not given because changes in ownership would have altered these over time. A few returns for Franklin County (1828, 1835, 1842), Columbia County (1821), Mifflin County (1821), and Philadelphia City (1863) provide the name, age and gender of deaf, dumb and blind inhabitants.
Manuscript Group 262: Special Collections Microfilm
United States Direct Tax of 1798: Tax Lists for the State of Pennsylvania - Compiled to facilitate the first federal tax based on wealth (Act of July 14, 1798), these lists and summary abstracts not only document property owners but also the number and types of buildings and slaves that they owned. The 1798 Act established nine divisions in Pennsylvania. The National Archives arranged the volumes by divisions and thereunder by district, county, township, or other subdivision.
The primary tax lists include "Particular Lists" (Form A, B, and C) and "General Lists"( Form D,E, and F) of dwelling houses and other buildings, land, lots, wharfs, and slaves; and Summary Abstracts (Forms G, H,I, and K) compiled from the General Lists.
- The Particular Lists for Dwelling Houses (Form A) give information generally on locations, dimensions (footprint), number of stories, number of "lights" (i.e. glass window panes, which were considered to be an indication of prosperity considering the relative expense of glass, hence the other name by which this tax is known: The Glass Tax), and predominant construction material of each dwelling; similar descriptions of barns and other outbuildings; and the names of the owners or occupants. This information can be particularly valuable to those researching, preserving or reconstructing a historic property.
- The Particular Lists of Lands, Lots, Buildings and Wharfs (Form B) show in general the size of each tract or lot, and the claimed exemptions; the number, description and dimension of wharves and buildings except dwellings over $100.00 in value; and the names of owners or occupants.
- The Particular Lists for Slaves (Form C) usually gives the name of each owner, the total number of slaves owned, the number exempt from taxation because of disability, and the number between the ages of 12 and 50 subject to the tax.
All Tax Lists for the third District of the Second Division (part of Chester County) and for the First District of the Fourth Division ( part of Berks County) are known to be missing. There is no general index to the records but some entries in some volumes are alphabetical by the first letter of the person's surname. Miss Martha Simonetti and Mr. William Work from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, aided in the identification and arrangement of these volumes. There is an Alphabetical List of Place Names in the Introduction Section of the first roll of microfilm. The first two columns give the names of the places and counties. In the third column are given the numbers of the rolls on which the information is filmed. The Introduction also contains a Table of Contents which lists the roll number, the volume numbers, the Division number, the District number, and the County.
Typical entries for each Federal Census population schedule:
1790 Census - The first federal census, taken in 1790, is available in published form as Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Pennsylvania(Washington, 1908). Entries include the name of head of household, number of free white males under 16 years of age, number of free white females, number of all other free persons, and number of slaves. This book is located on the reference bookshelves.
Census of 1800 - Entries list name and address of head of family; number of free whites under 10 years of age, 10 to 15, 16 to 25, 26-44, and 45 years and upward in the household; number of all other free persons except Indians not taxed; and number of slaves.
Census of 1810 - Lists name and address of head of family; number of free whites under 10 years of age, 10 to 15, 16 to 44, and 45 years and upward in the household; number of all other free persons except Indians not taxed; and number of slaves.
Census of 1820 - Lists name and address of head of family; number of free white males and females under 10 years of age, 10 to 16, 17 to 18, 17 to 25, 26 to 44, and 45 years and upward in the household; number of foreigners not naturalized; number of persons engaged in agriculture, commerce or manufacturing; number of free blacks and slaves by various age and gender categories; and number of all other persons except Indians not taxed.
Census of 1830 - Lists name and address of head of family; number of free white males and females in five-year groups to 20, ten year age intervals from 20 to 100, and 100 years old and upward in the household; number of free male and female black persons by age and sex; number of slaves by age and sex; and the number of aliens.
Census of 1840 - Lists name and address of head of family; number of free white males and females in five-year age groups to 20, ten year age groups from 20 to 100 years old and over; number of free male and female black persons and slaves according to age groups; number of persons classified as deaf, dumb, blind, and insane or idiotic in public and private charge; number of persons in each family employed in various classes of occupations; number of white persons over 20 who were illiterate; and names and ages of any military pensioners.
Census of 1850-1860 - Lists name, address, age, sex, race, and occupation for each free person; occupation and value of real estate owned by all free males over the age of 15 years; birthplace; marital status; whether individual was illiterate, attended school within the year, or was a pauper or convict. Entries regarding slavery show name, age, sex and color of slave; information about whether individual was a fugitive; and slaveowner's name.
Census of 1870 - Lists name, address, age, sex, race, and birthplace for each person in household; occupation and estate value of all males over 21 years old; whether person attended school or was married within year; whether individual's parents were of foreign birth; and for a person 10 years or older, whether he or she was deaf, blind, insane, idiotic or able to read and write.
Census of 1880 - Lists name, address, sex, race, birthplace, age, marital status, relationship to head of family, profession, occupation or trade; number of months unemployed during census year; whether individual was sick, temporariy disabled, literate, blind, deaf, dumb, idiotic, insane, maimed, crippled or bedridden; whether person attended school; and parents' birthplace.
Census of 1890 - Destroyed by a fire in Washington in 1921. A Special Census of 1890, Schedule Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War is available on microfilm. Entries list name and address of person surveyed, veteran's rank, company, regiment, length of service, dates of enlistment and discharge, and any disability incurred.
Census of 1900 - Lists name, address, race, sex, date of birth, age at last birthday, marital status; relationship to head of family; number of children that each mother gave birth to, and the number of offspring still alive; place of birth of person and parents; occupation, trade or profession of everyone over 10 years old; number of months every able-bodied person unemployed that year; how many months of school each household member attended.
Census of 1910 - Lists name, address, race, sex, age at last birthday, marital status; relationship to head of household; whether house is owned or rented; whether house is owned free or mortgaged; year of immigration to United States; whether naturalized or alien; year of naturalization; whether attended school since September 1, 1909; ability to read and write; place of birth; parents' birthplace; ability to speak English; trade or profession; industry or business in which employed; and whether employer, employee or self-employed.
Census of 1920 - Lists name, address, race, sex, age at last birthday, marital status; relationship to head of household; whether house is owned or rented; whether house is owned free or mortgaged; year of immigration to United States; whether naturalized or alien; year of naturalization; whether attended school since September 1, 1919; ability to read and write; place of birth; mother tongue; parents' birthplace and mother tongues; ability to speak English; trade or profession; industry or business in which employed; whether employer, employee or self-employed.
Census of 1930 - Entries in the 1930 census offer the following information about each place of abode: street address; census taker's numbers (assigned to the home and the family in order of visitation); name of each person living in the household on April 1, 1930; relationship of each person to the head of household; whether the home was owned or rented; value of home or monthly rental payment; whether the home contained a radio set; and whether the family also owned a farm. Information categories provided for each individual listed include personal description (sex, color or race, age at last birthday, marital status, age at first marriage); education (attended school or college since Sept. 1, 1929, whether able to read or write); place of birth of the person and his or her parents); native language; citizenship (year of immigration, naturalization, whether able to speak English); occupation and industry (profession, type of industry or business, class of worker); employment (whether actually at work on the last regular working day, and if not, the line number on the Unemployment schedule--which no longer exists); whether or not a veteran, and if so, of what war or expedition. Special census schedules for farms, merchant seamen and other classifications also exist.