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  • New York State Census Records

    Marian S. Henry

    Published Date : January 3, 2003

    The census is one of the first tools a beginning genealogist is introduced to and remains a workhorse for experienced genealogists.  Using census information is a basic skill for genealogists.  The experienced genealogist searches all relevant census records, including state census records, recognizing that an aging parent or a child who died young may be recorded on only one census.  Families moving into upper New York State in the early nineteenth century were often transient, passing through the state rapidly on a genealogical time scale.  In this situation it is doubly important to check all possible censuses.  There is a gap in the federal census record due to the loss of the 1890 census.  The 1892 New York State census can help to fill that gap for your New York State ancestors.  In this article I discuss what state census records were created, how to get to these records, and what information can be gained from each state census.


    What Records Were Created

    Census enumerations for New York State occurred every ten years from 1825 to 1875 and from 1905 to 1925. There is more information in the nineteenth-century records than one usually expects from a census.  In addition to an enumeration of the population, the state was interested in information about farms and businesses, about churches and newspapers, about marriages and deaths.  If your ancestor lived in the state during this time and owned land, even a few acres, or a small business such as a gristmill or a cabinet making shop, then you may find how many acres he planted in buckwheat and how many sheep he owned, or how many people he employed and how much he paid them.

    Only one census was taken between 1875 and 1905 – that of 1892. This census, dated February 16, 1892, was quite brief.  It asked only name, sex, age, color, in what country born, citizen or alien, and occupation.  This census gains in importance because of the loss in 1921 of the 1890 federal census. 

    The nineteenth century was a time of flux for the state.  As settlers flooded in, new counties were established to provide local government.  Thus your ancestor’s location may change from one census to the next, not because he moved, but because a new county was formed.  The following link is to a table of upstate counties formed after the Revolutionary War. It lists the year the county was formed, the parent county/counties, and the first census in which the county is listed as a separate entity.  The last column lists that part of the state census records which are incomplete or missing in the New York State Library in Albany.

    Table 1 - Upstate NY Counties Formed After the Revolutionary War


    How to Access the Records

    Original state census records were stored by county in each county clerk’s office.  Copies of these records were sent to Albany and are today held by the state library there.  Public libraries with a local history or genealogy section frequently have microfilm copies for their county, and occasionally for neighboring counties.  You should inquire about interlibrary loan of these microfilms.  All of these collections are probably incomplete; earliest records will be hardest to find. 

    I searched  the catalog of the Family History Library for 1825 New York census records and found only Washington and Cattaraugus counties.  For the 1835 census only Cattaraugus County is listed.  The NEHGS library catalog lists indices to the 1855 census of Schenectady and Montgomery counties, but nothing earlier.  I found no New York State census records in the databases in Ancestry.com.  County web pages sometimes have census information.  Schuyler County, for example, was formed in 1854.  Nevertheless, the website offers 1825 census data for those parts of the county, which, at the time, were in neighboring counties.  Ontario, one of the oldest upstate counties, offers indices for 1850-1875 records online at the web page for the county archive.  The archive  holds records county records from 1845 to 1925.  County historical societies may be another source of online information.

    The remainder of this article details the wealth of information to be found in these records.  After listing the questions asked on the various censuses, I present some examples to show how the state census can enhance the family information obtained from the federal census records.  The most complete record in the state library is for Steuben County, so I chose that county for my examples.  The original census records are held in the county clerk’s office in Bath.  The collection is not complete.  Only a few towns are present for 1825, and 1845 is missing entirely.  For my examples I have chosen the family of David McMaster, a farmer from Bath.  In addition to David, (born 1796), the household contained his wife, Mary, (born 1815), her mother, Abby Humphries, (born 1782), and at least nine children born between 1829 and 1859. [1]

    Questions for 1825 and 1835 State Census

    Information from the 1825 census is contained in thirty-six columns.  Columns 1 to 13 do the basic job of a census – they count people.  Columns 14 to 16 ask about marriage, birth, and death.  Columns 17 to 21 are concerned with agriculture, and columns 22 to 36 with “domestic manufacturies.”  The 1835 census was slightly shorter. 

    Table II - Questions for the 1825 and 1835 New York State Census

    1855 Census Questions

    The 1855 census is enormous.  Like the 1850 federal census before it, this is the first state census to list by name every member of the household.  Unlike the federal census, it also specifies the relationship of each person to the head of household.  This census also asks how many years present in this city or town, which can help you track your family’s movements within the state. 

    The census information requires more than 150 columns.  The population schedule occupies columns 1-21.  The agriculture section of the second schedule is the largest section of the census, columns 22-101.  This section is completed with questions about Domestic Manufacturies, columns 102-108.  Industry other than agriculture is in schedule III, columns 109-125.  Schedule IV contains listings of marriages and deaths, columns 126-139.  Schedule V lists churches and schools.  Schedule VI lists newspapers and other periodicals.  The questions in columns 1-139 are listed below by schedule.

    Table III - Questions for the 1855 New York State Census

    1865 and 1875

    The 1865 census contains some military service information.  An added schedule lists the page and line of a person in the census and adds information such as their rank and the unit they are serving with. In the 1875 census the schedules appear in a different order, marriages and deaths coming before the agriculture and manufacturing sections.  There is more detail in several entries.  The section on sheep, columns 141-148, is shown below as an example.

                141 Shorn in 1874

                142 Shorn in 1875

                143 Lambs raised in 1874

                144 Lambs raised in 1875

                145 Pounds of wool shorn in 1874

                146 Pounds of wool shorn in 1875

                147 Sheep slaughtered in 1874

                148 Sheep killed by dogs in 1874

    Questions for 1905, 1915, and 1925 Census

    Permanent Residence

    1

    Street

    house number

    Name

    2

    Name of each person whose usual place of abode on June 1was in this family

    Relation

    3

    relationship of each person to the head of the family

    Color, Sex and Age

    4

     color or race

    5

    sex

    6

    age at last birthday

    Nativity

    7

    If of foreign birth write name of the country

    Citizenship

    8

    Number of years in the united States

    9

    Citizen or alien

    10

     If naturalized when and where

    Occupation

    11

    Trade or profession

    12

    class [wages or not]

    Inmates of Institutions, Infants under one year of age

    13

    residence when admitted

    Example: David McMaster, Farmer

    In the 1850 federal census we find David McMaster living in Bath with his wife Mary, six (presumed) children, an older woman named Abby Humphries, and two other people who may be servants.  The gap in ages of children, David M., age 20, and Adaline, age 6, suggests the possibility of several married daughters or children who died young.  The 1855 state census identifies Abby Humphries as Mary’s mother, born in Connecticut.  It also gives the county of birth for those born in New York State, and states how long they have lived in Bath.  One son, Greg H. McMaster, is no longer in the household. [2] A daughter, Adaline McMaster, is no longer listed in the household.  She would have been 11 years old, and so probably died rather than married.  A son, James, has been added.  Elizabeth Cummins, probably supplying domestic help in 1850 has gone, her place taken by Mary Heron.

     

    Entry in 1850 Federal Census

    dwelling #300, family #314, Bath, Steuben Co.

    Entry in 1855 NY State Census

    dwelling #122, family #133

    2nd dist. Bath, Steuben Co.

    Dwelling

     

    frame house, $2000

    David McMaster

    46, M, County Judge, $5000, b. NY

    51 M, b. Otsego, native, mar., 28 yrs in Bath, farmer, native voter, owner of land

    Mary McMaster

    35, F, b. NY

    41, wife, b. Chemung, married, 34 yrs. in Bath

    Greg H. McMaster

    21, M, Lawyer, b. NY

    [not listed in household]

    David M. McMaster

    20, M, Engineer, b. NY

    24 M, son, b. Steuben, 24 yrs. in Bath, engineer, native voter

    Adaline McMaster

    6, F, b. NY, attended school

    [not listed in household]

    Mary McMaster

    3, F, b. NY

    9 F, daughter, Steuben, 9 yrs. in Bath

    Clara McMaster

    2, F, b. NY

    7 F, daughter, Steuben, 7 yrs. in Bath

    Edward McMaster  (1850)

    George E. McMaster (1855)

    6/12, b. NY

    5 M, son, b. Steuben, 5 yrs. in Bath

    James S. McMaster

     

    3 M, son, b. Steuben, 3 yrs. in Bath

    Abby Humphreys

    68, F, b. Conn.

    71, F, wife mother, b. Conn. , wid., 30 yrs. in Bath, owner of land

    Elizabeth Cummins

    16, F, b. NY, attended school

    [not listed in household]

    Leander Thomas

    15, M, black, b. NY, attended school.

    19 M, black, servant, b. Steuben, 19 yrs. in Bath, colored not taxed

    Mary A. Heron

     

    17, F, servant, b. Steuben, 17 yrs in Bath

    In addition to the population schedule, David McMaster is listed in the agriculture schedule since he owns land.  This schedule gives the following description of his farm with milk cows, pigs, apple orchard, and bee hives. David McMaster, 92 acres improved, 2 acres unimproved, cash value of farm $5400, of stock $410, of tools and implements $130, 34 acres plowed previous year, none fallow, 24 acres in pasture, 14 acres of meadow, 15 tons of hay, no grass seed, no spring wheat, 20 acres sown to winter wheat yielding 236 bushels, 5 acres sown to oats yielding 60 bushels, no rye, 12 acres sown to barley yielding 300 bushels, 6 acres sown to buckwheat yielding 50 bushels, 10 acres sown to corn yielding 15 bushels, 1 acre sown to potatoes yielding 50 bushels, no peas, beans, turnips, flax, hemp, hops, or tobacco, 40 bushels of apples, no maple sugar, molasses, or wine, 100 pounds of honey, no wax or silk, 4 cattle over one year, no working oxen, 8 cows, 1 killed for beef, 8 cows milked yielding 1200 pounds of butter, 2 horses, no mules, 5 swine over 6 months, 15 sheep, 18 fleeces, 54 pounds of wool, no poultry sold, $60 value of eggs sold.  I’m not sure how to get 18 fleeces off of 15 sheep; perhaps three of 18 original sheep were later slaughtered. 

    Although David’s mother-in-law, Abby Humphries, is listed as an owner of land, I found no listing for her in agricultural schedules for any of the four districts of Bath.  Perhaps she owned the farm jointly with her son-in-law.  Or perhaps her land was managed by someone else and was listed under that name.  The answer may lie in land records.

    The first census in which the David McMaster household appears is the 1830 federal census. [3] From information in the 1850 and 1855 censuses about how long people were resident in Bath, we expect this 1830 household to contain David McMaster, 26, his wife Mary McMaster, 16, her mother Abby Humphries, 48, and their eldest son Greg McMaster, 1.  What we find is 1M<5, 1M 30-40, 1F 20-30, 1F 40-50.  The agreement is moderately successful. 

    The first state census listing the David McMaster household is 1835.  This census describes the household as containing 3 males total, 3 females total, 1 male 18-45, 1 male voter, 1 married female under 45, no females 16-45, 1 female unmarried under 16, no marriages, 2 births one male and one female, 2 deaths one male and one female, 50 acres of improved land, 6 neat cattle, no horses, no sheep, 11 hogs. 

    We can account for the three males as the head of household and his two young sons.  The three females we assign to Mary, her mother, and possibly a daughter, unmarried, under 16.  The two births and deaths listed occurred during 1835 and may indicate babies, perhaps twins, who died young.  We can also see that the farm is smaller – 50 acres of improved land instead of the 92 in 1855.

    Even the somewhat skimpy information of the 1892 census can be useful.  In this census I find three of the McMaster daughters, apparently unmarried, listed sequentially in Bath. [4]

    Name

    Sex

    Age

    What Country Born

    Citizen or Alien

    Occupation

    Mary McMaster

    F

    46

    US

    C

    teacher

    Clara McMaster

    F

    43

    US

    C

     

    Juliet McMaster

    F

    33

    US

    C

    Stenographer

    Postscript

    There is also more general information included in some state censuses that may not be found elsewhere.

    In 1855 farm hands hired by the season or year earned $20 per month.  Those hired for haying and harvest earned $1.50 per day.  Women hired for household work $0.75 per day or $2per week. [5]   Wages in 1875 per month: blacksmith, $39; tailor, $35; cooper, $28; baker, $30; brick maker, $25; wagon maker, $25. 

    Farmers were apparently troubled by dogs attacking sheep flocks.  Whether perceived or real, the matter merited a question in the 1875 census.  In the 4th district of Bath I find that 8 sheep were reported killed by dogs; in comparison 45 sheep were slaughtered that year.  Other data in the 2nd district are less easy to analyze.  One farmer reported none of his 28 sheep killed by dogs, but he also slaughtered all 28.  Apparently he was shifting to pig farming.  Another farmer reported having no sheep, but 14 were killed by dogs.  Is that why he had no sheep?  Or did he sell or slaughter the rest?



    [1] This information was obtained from 1850, 1855, and 1870 census records.

    [2] He is not listed on his own in 1855, but there is a G. H. McMaster listed for Bath in the 1860 federal census.

    [3] Bath, Steuben Co., p. 294.

    [4] Fourth district of Bath, Steuben Co., page 003.

    [5] This difference between daily and weekly wage makes more sense if the weekly wage includes room and board.

    Table 1 - Upstate NY Counties Formed After the Revolutionary War
    County

    Year Formed

    Parent County/Counties

    First Census

    NY State Library missing/incomplete

    Allegany

    1806

    Genesee

    1810

    1825-1845

    Broome

    1806

    Tioga

    1810

    1825, 1845

    Cattaraugus

    1808

    Genesee

    1810

     

    Cayuga

    1799

    Onondaga

    1800

    1825-1845, 1905

    Chautauqua

    1808

    Genesee

    1810

     

    Chemung

    1798

    Tioga

    1800

    1825-1845, 1875

    Chenango

    1798

    Herkimer, Tioga

    1800

    1825-1845, 1892

    Clinton

    1788

    Washington

    1790

    1825-1875

    Cortland

    1808

    Onondoga

    1810

    1845

    Delaware

    1797

    Ulster, Otsego

    1800

    1825-1845

    Erie

    1821

    Niagara

    1825

    1825-1845, 1875-1892

    Essex

    1799

    Clinton

    1800

    1825-1845

    Franklin

    1808

    Clinton

    1810

    1825-1865, 1892

    Fulton

    1838

    Montgomery

    1840

    1825-1835, 1892

    Genesee

    1802

    Ontario

    1810

    1825-1865

    Hamilton

    1816

    Montgomery

    1820

    1825-1875

    Herkimer

    1791

    Montgomery

    1800

    1825

    Jefferson

    1805

    Oneida

    1810

    1825-1865, 1892

    Lewis

    1805

    Oneida

    1810

    1845

    Livingston

    1821

    Genesee, Ontario

    1825

    1825-1845, 1892-1905

    Madison

    1806

    Chenango

    1810

    1825-1845

    Monroe

    1821

    Genesee, Ontario

    1825

    1825-1845

    Niagara

    1808

    Genesee

    1810

    1825-1845, 1892

    Oneida

    1798

    Herkimer

    1800

    1825-1905

    Onondaga

    1794

    Herkimer

    1800

    1825-1845

    Ontario

    1789

    Montgomery

    1790

    1825-1845, 1905

    Orleans

    1824

    Genesee

    1825

    1825-1845

    Oswego

    1816

    Oneida, Onondaga

    1820

    1825-1845, 1905

    Otsego

    1791

    Montgomery

    1800

    1835-1845

    Saratoga

    1791

    Albany

    1800

    1825-1845

    Schenectady

    1809

    Albany

    1810

    1825

    Schoharie

    1795

    Albany, Otsego

    1800

    1845

    Schuyler

    1854

    Tompkins, Steuben, Chemung

    1855

    1825-1845, 1892-1905

    Seneca

    1804

    Cayuga

    1810

    1825-1905

    St. Lawrence

    1802

    Clinton, Herkimer, Montgomery

    1810

    1845, 1865-1892

    Steuben

    1796

    Ontario

    1800

    none

    Tioga

    1791

    Montgomery

    1800

    1845

    Tompkins

    1817

    Cayuga, Seneca

    1820

    1845-1855

    Warren

    1813

    Washington

    1820

    1825-1855

    Wayne

    1823

    Ontario, Seneca

    1825

    1825-1875

    Wyoming

    1841

    Genesee

    1845

    1825-1865, 1892-1905

    Yates

    1823

    Ontario, Steuben

    1825

    1905

    Table II - Questions for the 1825 and 1835 New York State Census

    1

    The name of the head of each family

    2

    The number of male persons in the family, (the name of whose head is in the first column) including its head, if male.

    3

    The number of female persons in the same family, including its head, if female.

    4

    The number of male persons in the same family subject to militia duty. [i.e. age 18-45]

    5

    The whole number of male persons in the same family entitled by the constitution of this state to vote for all offices elective by the people.

    6

    The number of male persons in the same family who are aliens not naturalized.

    7

    The number of persons in the same family who are paupers.

    8

    The number of persons in the same family who are persons of color not taxed

    9

    The number of persons of color in the same family who are taxed

    10

    The whole number of persons of color in the same family who are colored, taxed, and entitled by the constitution of this state to vote for all officers elective by the people (and not to be included in the ninth column)

    11

    The number of married female persons in the same family under the age of 45 years

    12

    The number of unmarried female persons in the same family between the ages of 16 and 45 years

    13

    The number of female persons in the same family, unmarried, under the age of 16 years

    14

    The number of marriages occurring in the same family, where the female married resided, during the year preceding

    15

    Whole number of births in the same family during the year preceding

    16

    Whole number of deaths  in the same family during the year preceding

    17

    The number of acres of improved land occupied by the same family

    18

    The number of neat cattle owned by the same family

    19

    The number of horses owned by the same family

    20

    The number of sheep owned by the same family

    21

    The number of hogs owned by the same family

    22

    The number of yards of fulled cloth manufactured in the domestic way in the same family, during the preceding year

    23

    The number of yards of flannel and other woolen cloths not fulled, manufactured in the domestic way in the same family, during the year preceding

    24

    The number of yards of linen, cotton, or other thin cloths, manufactured in the domestic way in the same family, during the year preceding

    25*

    Deaf and dumb, blind, idiots and lunatics [separated by age and “circumstances”]

    25**

    Whole number of Grist Mills owned by same family

    26**

    Whole number of Saw Mills owned by same family

    27**

    Whole number of Oil Mills owned by same family

    28**

    Whole number of Fulling Mills owned by same family

    29**

    Whole number of Carding machines owned by same family

    30**

    Whole number of Cotton Factories owned by same family

    31**

    Whole number of Woolen Factories owned by same family

    32**

    Whole number of Cotton and Woolen Factories owned by same family

    33**

    Whole number of Iron works owned by same family

    34**

    Whole number of Trip Hammers owned by same family

    35**

    Whole number of Distilleries owned by same family

    36**

    Whole number of Asheries owned by same family.

    * Final question on 1835 census. ** These questions dropped on 1835 census.

    Table III - Questions for the 1855 New York State Census

    I. Population Schedule (columns 1-21)


    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}

    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

    14

    Profession, trade, or occupation

    15

    Native voters

    16

    Naturalized voters

    17

    Aliens

    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

    II. Agriculture (columns 22-101) and Domestic Manufacturies (columns 102-108)

     

    22

    Name of the owner, agent, or manager of farm

    Acres

    23

    Improved

    24

    Unimproved

    Cash value

    25

    of Farm

    26

    of Stock

    27

    of Tools and Implements

    Acres

    28

    plowed the year previous

    29

    in fallow the year previous

    30

    in pasture the year previous

    Meadow

    31

    Acres

    32

    Tons of Hay

    33

    Bushels of grass seed

    Spring wheat

    34

    Acres

    35

    Bushels harvested

    Winter Wheat

    36

    Acres sown

    37

    Bushels harvested

    Oats

    38

    Acres sown

    39

    Bushels harvested

    Rye

    40

    Acres sown

    41

    Bushels harvested

    Barley

    42

    Acres sown

    43

    Bushels harvested

    Buckwheat

    44

    Acres sown

    45

    Bushels harvested

    Corn

    46

    Acres sown

    47

    Bushels harvested

    Potatoes

    48

    Acres sown

    49

    Bushels harvested

    Peas

    50

    Acres sown

    51

    Bushels harvested

    Beans

    52

    Acres sown

    53

    Bushels harvested

    Turnips

    54

    Acres sown

    55

    Bushels harvested

    Flax

    56

    Acres sown

    57

    Tons of Lint

    58

    Bushels of Seed

    Hemp

    59

    Acres sown

    60

    Tons of Hemp

    Hops

    61

    Acres planted

    62

    Pounds harvested

    Tobacco

    63

    Acres planted

    64

    Pounds harvested

    Apple orchards

    65

    Bushels of Apples

    66

    Barrels of Cider

    Market Gardens

    67

    Acres cultivated

    68

    Value of Products sold

     

    69

    Pounds of maple sugar made

     

    70

    Gallons of Maple Molasses made

     

    71

    Gallons of wine made

     

    72

    Pounds of honey collected

     

    73

    Pounds of wax collected

     

    74

    Silk Pounds of cocoons

    Unenumerated articles of farm produce

    75

    Kinds

    76

    Quantity

    77

    Value

    Neat Cattle

    78

    Under one year old

    79

    Over one year, exclusive of working oxen and cows

    80

    Working oxen

    81

    Cows

    82

    Number of cattle killed for beef

    83

    Whole number of cows milked

    Butter

    84

    Number of cows

    85

    Pounds of butter

    Cheese

    86

    Number of cows

    87

    Pounds of cheese

    Cows milked for market

    88

    Number of cows

    89

    Gallons of milk sold

     

    90

    Horses

     

    91

    Mules

    Swine

    92

    under 6 months

    93

    over 6 months

    Sheep

    94

    Number of sheep

    95

    Number of fleeces

    96

    Pounds of wool

    Poultry

    97

    Value of Poultry sold

    98

    Value of Eggs sold

    Special Manures Used

    99

    Kinds

    100

    Quantity

    101

    Value

    Domestic Manufactures

    102

    Yards of Fulled Cloth made

    103

    Yards of Flannel made

    104

    Yards of Linen made

    105

    Yards of Cotton and Mixed Cloths

    Other articles of Domestic Manufactures

    106

    Kinds

    107

    Quantity

    108

    Valu

    III Industry other than Agriculture (Columns 109-125)

     

    109

    Name of Person or Company owning the Shop, Factory, Mine, Quarry, or other object of industry

     

    110

    Name of Business or Manufacture

    Capital Invested

    111

    in Real Estate

    112

    in Tools and Machinery

    Raw Materials

    113

    Quantity

    114

    Kind

    115

    Value

    Annual Product

    116

    Quantity

    117

    Kind

    118

    Value

     

    119

    Kind of Motive Power

    Persons Employed

    Adults

    120

    Men

    121

    Women

    Children under 18 years

    122

    Boys

    123

    Girls

    Wages exclusive of board

    Average monthly wages

    124

    of men

    125

    of women

    IV Marriages and Deaths (columns 126-139)

    Marriages

     Ages

    126

    of husband

    127

    of wife

    Previous civil condition

    128

    of husband

    129

    of wife

       

    130

    in what month married

    131

    Place of marriage, where different from present residence

    Deaths

     

    132

    Age

    133

    Sex

       

    134

    Color

    135

    Civil condition

       

    136

    Time of death

    137

    Native Country

       

    138

    Trade or occupation

    139

    Disease or Cause of Death

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
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