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The Kansas State Census

Not all states conducted what are referred to as "state" censuses. Only a handful did, but for those who have ancestors in a state with a state census, it can provide a gold mine of information.


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Not all states conducted what are referred to as "state" censuses. Only a handful did but for those who have ancestors in a state with a state census, it can provide a gold mine of information. They can be vital in cases where your ancestor was somehow missed in a federal census or you just can't find them using online index searches. Those taken in the decade of 1890 can be important substitutes for the 1890 census that was all but destroyed. According to Ann S Lainhart, author of the book, State Census Records, there are several reasons why state census records are important in the face of federal census being so readily accessible now. "State censuses may fill in gaps left by missing federal censuses. State censuses may not be closed to the public for seventy-two years . . . most state censuses ask different questions than federal censuses."

Kansas conducted state and territorial censuses from 1855 to 1925. Kansas became a United States territory in 1854, and a state in 1861. To most effectively search the state census for your ancestor, it is important to understand the changes in the county that your ancestor lived in, consulting a resource like William Thorndale and William Dollarhide's, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Census 1790-1920. Programs like Animap, by Gold Bug Software also can be useful in documenting boundary changes in United States history. Without a clear understanding of county boundaries and their changes, you can become frustrated looking for your ancestor in the wrong place. has just added the Kansas State Census 1855-1915 Collection to their web site. To search this database, from Ancestry's homepage, click on the "Search" tab and then click on the state of Kansas. From the Kansas page of databases, choose "Kansas Census Records". These records are from microfilm held by the Kansas State Historical Society. For the years, 1855-1859, voter lists were used. Information contained on these censuses, depending on the year, include name age, birthplace, occupation, state lived in prior to coming to Kansas, and prior military service. If you read the information listed on the homepage for the Kansas State Census,, it lists for you each census, what information was included and the counties available for that year.

If you do not have a subscription to Ancestry, you can access it from a Family History Center or from some public libraries. You can also check the list of available online census returns for Kansas, both federal and state, at Census Finder, This list is by state and then by county.

In the 1915 State Census for Thomas County, one of my ancestors just happened to be on the first page of the census book, facing the instructions to the census taker. These instructions might be of help in better understanding how the census was gathered:

The decennial state census is required by law to be taken this year (1915) as of March 1. It is the duty of the State Board of Agriculture to supervise this, and the careful collection of required data is a part of each assessor's work. List of schedules in this book which, under the law, MUST BE FILLED :

1. Population

2. Agriculture

3. Creameries, Condenseries, and Cheese Factories

4. Schools

5. Libraries

6. Churches

7. Newspapers

8. Deaf Mute, Blind, Idiotic and Insane

9. Pauperism and Crime

In the return of live stock (Schedule 2) include animals of ALL AGES. Those under six months are not taxable, but should be counted in this enumeration.

This report has nothing whatever to do with assessment of property for taxation.

Should information be refused by persons expected to be best posted, the law says you shall get it elsewhere, "from the most reliable source." As a last resource, this may mean you.

When searching the state census, be careful, because in the latter years the census continues over two or more pages. Sometimes the census taker did not fill out the complete return on a family. Each line is numbered to make it easier as you go through information on multiple pages for one person or family. However, on one of the 1915 returns I was looking at, the census taker dropped the individual down a line on the 2nd and 3rd page, thus making it confusing as to who the information was referring to.

The Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas State Historical Society, has copies of the Kansas state census and indexes that can be researched either on site at their archives or on microfilm through interlibrary loan. If Ancestry does not have the counties you need, you may want to check with the Historical Society. The Society has a web page that lists the census years and their holdings, This list also includes links to other sources that contain certain county returns online. They also list what information was gathered for each census year.

The Family History Library,, has some microfilmed and hard (book) copies of Kansas census returns including the years 1855-1859, 1865, 1875, 1885, and 1895. To check out their collection, go to their web site and click on the Library tab. From the Library page click on the Catalog tab. Conduct a place search for Kansas from the Catalog. Once you have selected Kansas, scroll down and you will see a list of Kansas census records and indexes, both state and federal.

The Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies,, has a helpful list that shows each state, when the first federal census was taken and what state census were taken, if any. This handy reference can aid your research by helping you to completely exhaust census records and census substitutes. Don't forget to check out the US Genweb Kansas pages for additional transcriptions of state census returns and indexes, KSGenWeb - Kansas Genealogy.

Although Kansas did conduct a 1925 state census, it is not available through Ancestry and the microfilmed copies at the Kansas State Historical Society do not circulate. This census included citizenship information including year of immigration to the United State and year of naturalization.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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