Since 1790, every ten years, the census of the United States has been taken by the federal government. The SHSMO Research Center-Columbia has a large collection of these census records microfilmed by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.. Visitors to the Columbia Center may view the film and researchers at other centers can also request to use it. Microfilm can be transferred to any research center with a few days’ notice. All census schedules are also available from the National Archives and its branches. Researchers should remember that census records often contain misspellings, inaccuracies, and omissions.
The SHSMO collection contains census records for Missouri: 1830-1880, 1900-1930; all available film for most other states through 1880; and the 1900 census of Arkansas, Kansas, Oregon, and Indian Territory.
The 1890 census was destroyed by fire in Washington D.C., except for a special schedule to that census listing living Civil War Union veterans or their widows. SHSMO Research Center-Columbia has the Union Veteran schedule of 1890 for Missouri and Kentucky.
The Society has composite indexes to the Missouri censuses of 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870; individual indexes to each Missouri county for 1840 and 1850; indexes to some Missouri counties for other census years; and indexes to many early censuses of other states.
SHSMO has microfilm of the mortality, agricultural, and industrial schedules to the censuses of Missouri for 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880; the 1880 schedule of defective, dependent, and delinquent classes; and the 1850 and 1860 Missouri slave schedules. The mortality schedules list persons who died during the year preceding the taking of the census.
Researchers often overlook the agriculture census; however it contains a wealth of information about individual farmers. The agriculture census schedule was usually given to all free persons who produced goods valued at $100 or more, but census-takers often overlooked this rule, allowing farmers who produced goods of lesser value to also provide information.
The census offers an array of data concerning an individual farmer’s operation and production, including the value and acreage of the farm and whether it was owned or rented. The census also provides details about the number of livestock owned, production of crops, and use of machinery. Each category is split into subdivisions; for instance, the livestock category is subdivided into horses, dairy and non-dairy cows, swine, and sheep.
Searching the agriculture census schedules is similar to searching the population schedules. Both are arranged by county and township and the family number found in the population census corresponds to the family number in the agriculture census.
The agriculture census can be useful for both historical and genealogical researchers. For historians, it provides details about farming trends, types of produce and livestock, and the economic status of farmers. A genealogist can potentially find detailed accounts of an ancestor’s farming operation. Regardless of one’s research goals, the census provides insight into nineteenth-century agricultural practices and economy.
Industrial schedules list businesses and facts concerning each business. Although not as valuable to genealogical researchers as the population census, the information in the industrial schedules has important uses for researchers studying economic and sociological trends from the mid-to-late nineteenth century.
Like the population schedules, the industrial schedules are arranged by county and then by townships or other divisions within each county. In addition to the name of the individual company and the type of businesses or product manufactured, census takers recorded power sources, machinery descriptions, the average number of employees of each sex, wages paid, materials used, and kinds, quantities, and values of production. The amount and type of information on the census increased as the century passed. There are few better tools for assessing Missouri’s economic growth in this era than the industrial census.
Slave schedules list only the slave owners by name. Slaves are enumerated by sex and age.
The schedules described above are arranged by county, and except for a few of the mortality schedules, are not indexed and cannot be searched by Society staff members.
The Territory of Missouri took censuses in 1814, 1817, and 1819. The State of Missouri took censuses in 1821, 1824, every four years from 1824 through 1868, and 1876, the last year. Most of these Territorial and State Censuses no longer exist. The available census are listed below:
Visitors can also access the federal census, but not Missouri state censuses, through the online paid subscription service Ancestry.com for free on computers at the Society’s Columbia Research Center.