Often referred to as "The Forgotten Census," an 1879 act regulating the 1880 census requested also that states and territories conduct a semi-decennial census, in between regular census years. Authorized by the federal government, "Each state or territory that complied with this request was to receive, from the federal treasury, 50 percent of the amount paid to all supervisors and actual enumerators within that state or territory." In spite of this incentive, in 1885, only a few states complied: Florida, Nebraska, Colorado, and the territories of New Mexico and Dakota. All except the 1885 Dakota Territory census were later transferred to the National Archives. And while other state census records do exist for that period, this was the only federally-sponsored census. As with previous federal censuses, Population, Agricultural, Manufactures and Mortality schedules were included, each of which provides significant information on those enumerated -- some of which might not be found elsewhere, helping to fill in for the lost 1890 census for participating states.
All of the 1885 census schedules held at the National Archives have been microfilmed, and some are available online. Following are the microfilm numbers for participating states:
New Mexico Territory #M846
Nebraska # M352
The Dakota Territory schedules were not transferred to the National Archives, but are held respectively at the South Dakota State Archives or the North Dakota State Archives.
Other 1885 State Censuses
A number of other states also took a census in 1885, independent of the federal government, including Iowa, Kansas, Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin. Although New York did NOT take a census in 1885, it did take one in 1892.
State Censuses for 1895
Many of the same states that took a census in 1885, also took census in 1895; those states include, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Wisconsin.
State census records are typically housed at state archives; some may also be found through online commercial databases, or on microfilm at the Family History Library or one of its Family History Centers.
Help us improve this frequently asked questions area. Please send us feedback or additional questions.