Federal Population Schedules that exist for Michigan are 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. The 1820 Census includes six counties and Detroit. A complete set of federal population and supplemental schedules are available on microfilm at the State Archives of Michigan along with available AIS indexes.
There are Industry and Agriculture Schedules availible for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Slave Schedules exist for 1850 & 1860. The Mortality Schedules for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Union Veterans Schedules were conducted in 1890.
Territorial and State: Numerous state and territorial censuses were taken in Michigan, although few are extant. In 1710 the French compiled the first Michigan census. This, plus numerous others through the year 1792, were basically of the Detroit area. Fort Saint Joseph had a census taken in 1780 (Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, Vol. 10, 1908, pages 406—07), as did Wayne County in 1796, which was printed in National Genealogical Society Quarterly 64 (1981): 185—94. A tax list of Wayne County in 1802 and a list of residents of Detroit in 1805 may be considered early enumerations of Michigan population.
The state census schedules for 1845, 1854, 1864, 1874, 1884, and 1894 are held by the State Archives of Michigan. Some of these are partial and/or incomplete. Prior to 1884 the state census names only the head of the household. The 1884 census, however, will identify those in each household that have married within the census year, giving the month of and the location of the marriage. There are also mortality schedules included in the 1884 and 1894 state censuses. A special Civil War Veteran Census was taken by the state in 1888.
Michigan Census, 1827-70: This collection contains the following indexes: 1827 Territorial Census Index; 1837 Kalamazoo County Index; 1840 Federal Census Index; 1840 Pensioners List; 1845 State Census Index; 1850 Federal Census Index; 1860 Federal Census Index; 1870 Federal Census Index; Early Census Index.
Michigan State Census, 1894: This database contains information from the 1894 Michigan State Census for the counties of Barry, Bay, Benzie, Dickinson, Emmet, Gratiot, Iosco, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Keweenaw, Lapeer, Menominee, Montcalm, and Washtenaw.
Excerpts From the Book "Family History Made Easy"
Since 1790, the U.S. government has taken a nationwide population count every ten years. Unique in scope and often surprisingly detailed, the census population schedules created from 1790 to 1920 are among the most used of records created by the federal government. Over the course of two centuries the United States has changed significantly, and so has the census. From the six basic questions asked in the 1790 census, the scope and categories of information have changed and expanded dramatically.
Early censuses were essentially basic counts of inhabitants; but as the nation grew, so did the need for statistics that would reflect the characteristics of the people. In 1850, the focus of the census was radically broadened. Going far beyond the vague questions previously asked of heads of households, the 1850 census enumerators were instructed to ask the age, sex, color, occupation, birthplace, and other questions regarding every individual in every household. Succeeding enumerations solicited more information; by 1920, census enumerators asked twenty-nine questions of every head of household and almost as many questions of everyone else in the residence. (Only a very small segment of the 1890 census remains; a fire in the Commerce Department destroyed the vast majority of the original records for that year. Because of privacy considerations, census records less than seventy-two years old are not available to the general public; thus, the 1920 census is the most recent available to the public.)
Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do the U.S. federal censuses. The population schedules are successive “snapshots” of Americans that depict where and how they were living at particular periods in the past. Once home sources and library sources have been exhausted, the census is often the best starting point for further genealogical research. Statewide indexes (see “Indexes,” below) are available for almost every census; they are logical tools for locating individuals whose precise place of residence is unknown. While some inaccuracies are to be expected in census records, they still provide some of the most fascinating and useful pieces of personal history to be found in any source. If nothing else, census records are important sources for placing individuals in specific places at specific times. Additionally, information found in the census will often point to other sources critical to complete research, such as court, land, military, immigration, naturalization, and vital records.
The importance of census records does not diminish over time in any research project. It is always wise to return to these records as discoveries are made in other sources because, as you discover new evidence about individuals, some information that seemed unrelated or unimportant in a first look at the census may take on new importance.
When you can’t find family, vital, or religious records, census records may be the only means of documenting the events of a person’s life. Vital registration—the official recording of births, deaths, and marriages—did not begin until around 1920 in many areas of the United States, and fires, floods and other disasters since have destroyed some official government records. When other documentation is missing, census records are frequently used by individuals who must prove their age or citizenship status (or that of their parents) for Social Security benefits, insurance, passports, and other important reasons.
How to Find Census Records
All available federal census schedules (those made from 1790 to 1920) have been microfilmed and are available at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.; at the National Archives’ regional archives; at the Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) in Salt Lake City and LDS family history centers throughout North America (see chapter 8, “The Family History Library and Its Centers”); at many large libraries; in genealogical society libraries; and through companies that lend microfilmed records. Some state and local agencies have census schedules for the state or area they serve. Generally, microfilm copies may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
Starting With the Census
It is usually best to begin a census search in the most recently available census records (1920) and to work from what is already known about a family. With any luck, birthplaces and other clues found in these more recent records will point to locations of earlier residence.
Back to top