Census Records for Minnesota
This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
• Indexed—1850, 1860 (Minnesota Historical Society), 1870, 1880, 1890 (limited), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
• Soundex—1880, 1900, 1920
Industry and Agriculture Schedules
• 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
• 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
Union Veterans Schedules
Although not a state at the time, Minnesota residents were enumerated in 1850 as part of the regular federal enumeration process. Both the 1850 and 1860 schedules have printed indexes in addition to those widely available online (see pages 3 and 17). See Patricia C. Harpole and Mary D. Nagle, Minnesota Territorial Census, 1850 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1972), and Dennis Meissner, Guide to the Use of the 1860 Minnesota Population Census Schedule and Index (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1978).
Much of the Minnesota 1870 federal census was destroyed. Only the schedules for Stearns, Steele, Stevens, St. Louis, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Winona, and Wright counties still exist. However, a duplicate of the entire census retained by the Minnesota Historical Society was microfilmed. There are, therefore, two versions of the 1870 federal census for the state of Minnesota. The extant 1890 federal census includes one page of Rockford Township in Wright County. A state copy for the 1890 federal return of Rockville Township, Stearns County, is at Minnesota Historical Society Research Center.
The extensive early logging industry in Minnesota may make it difficult to locate ancestors involved in that particular labor force. Some may be counted in the lumber camps or at the numerous boarding houses in the river cities and towns. It is also important to note that the steamboat crews on the rivers were often enumerated in the city in which the boat was temporarily docked. Federal non-population schedules for Minnesota for 1860 to 1880 (agriculture, manufacturing, mortality, and social statistics) can be purchased through the Minnesota Historical Society order department.
Minnesota inhabitants were first enumerated in the Michigan Territory 1820 census and the 1836 census of the Wisconsin Territory. A census of the Minnesota Territory was ordered in 1849, which included the name of head of household and number of males and females in that household. See Wiley R. Pope, Minnesota Genealogical Index, vol. 1 (St. Paul: Minnesota Family Trees, 1984) and Minnesota (Territory), Legislative Assembly, Journal of the House of Representatives, First Session of the Territory of Minnesota, 1850, Appendixes C and D, 195-215.
A very incomplete 1853 Minnesota census exists for limited areas. Some schedules are only head of household, number of children, and total number in household, but a few include all names of inhabitants. The state census for heads of household in 1855 has been largely lost. The published schedule for Wright County has survived, as have manuscript copies for the counties of Chisago, Doty, and Superior. Winona, however, has an unusual “inhabitants by building” enumeration for that year.
The 1857 Minnesota territorial census was mandated for statehood qualification and apparently included fictitious names in seven counties to boost the population. See Arthur L. Finnell, “Southwest Minnesota’s 1857 State Census: Notes on a Forgery,” Minnesota Genealogist 17 (June 1986): 76-78, and Robert J. Forrest, “Mythical Cities of Southwestern Minnesota,” Minnesota History 14 (September 1933): 243-62. The census includes name, age, sex, color, birthplace, voting status of male (native or naturalized), and occupation of each male over the age of fifteen. This census has been indexed by last name and a microfilm edition is available.
State censuses were also taken in 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, and 1905. Each of the state census enumerations includes all members of the household. In 1865, “Soldier in service on June 1, 1865” was included. The 1875 census gives the birthplaces of father and mother. The 1895 and 1905 censuses may be especially helpful to the genealogist as they include the length of time an individual has lived in the state and the district. Microfilmed copies of the state censuses are at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul. They may be purchased or obtained on interlibrary loan through the society.
The 1918 Alien Registration and Declaration of Holdings, under the auspices of the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety, is an alternate source for locating an immigrant ancestor in Minnesota in the twentieth century. The registration forms, completed by non-citizen adults in the state in February 1918, are filed by county. These registrations have been indexed and microfilmed and are at the Minnesota Historical Society and available through interlibrary loan through the FHL. Questions on the form include place of birth, years in the country, port of entry, date of arrival, occupation, name of spouse, and names of children. Originals of these forms are at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Alternates to census records in determining the location of a particular ancestor at a particular time include city directories, especially in St. Paul (from 1856) and Minneapolis (from 1859). Some are in original form; others are on microfilm at the Minnesota Historical Society.
- Minnesota Census Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Minnesota census records. Identifies federal, state, and territorial censuses, as well as substitute records (FamilySearch Research Wiki).