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Census: Microfilm Collections & Services

This guide focuses on locating people in the census microfilm reels.

1800 Census

Objective: To locate a specific person who lived in Pennsylvania in 1800.  

In this example we are tracking Rebecca Jones, who lived in Philadelphia and may have been counted in the Federal Population Census for Pennsylvania in 1800.  We want to confirm this information and determine any other information about her family collected by the census enumerator in 1800. 

1800 Census: Pennsylvania microfilm reels listing located at the end of this guide. 

The Internet can be a valuable tool to aid in your Census search. There are many sites that provide information.  Census Online contains over 44,000 links to US census records, census calculators, and census forms from 1790-1930. The microfilm information and the internet information can be used together to complete a search for an individual. Links to Internet sources have been inserted throughout this document that complement and, in some cases, replace the print indexes or the census microfilm. Please note that the microfilm constitutes the primary source and should be consulted for errors in transcription.

Please ASK the staff at Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, at any time for additional help or clarification about how to locate the sources or information.

Step 1: Begin in  Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, and locate the books titled, Pennsylvania Census Index (Call number: HA605.P45 1800) in the Indexes and Guides Section.  These volumes contain the names listed in the 1800 Census: Pennsylvania.

Step 2: Locate the person you are searching for in the Pennsylvania Census Index. Names are listed in alphabetical order by last name. To follow along with our example, you will find JONES, REBECCA listed on page 806.  See Example 1 below. 

There were two Rebecca Jones in Pennsylvania noted during the 1800 Census.  Notice the variation in the spelling of the first name (Rebeca vs. Rebecca) and where they resided (Fayette and Philadelphia Counties).  For our example, we are following Rebecca Jones who lived in Philadelphia County.

Example 1: Showing the entry for Rebecca Jones in the Pennsylvania Census Index 1800.

The entry for Rebecca Jones in the Pennsylvania Census Index 1800

Visit US GenWeb Census Project to determine if any census information is recorded online for Rebecca Jones in 1800.  This is an ongoing project with new data continuously being added [Note: For this example,  the census records for 1800  for Philadelphia County are not available online, so it is necessary to use the Census data available on Microfilm.]

Step 3:  Review the entry information provided for each name entry in the Pennsylvania Census Index. We have highlighted in red the information for Jones, Rebecca in Example 1 above. 

This includes:

  • Last name, first name--Jones, Rebecca
  • Place (county and state)-- Philadelphia Co Penn
  • The page on the microfilm--152
  • Twelve numbers which represent population data--00000-00101-00
    • Reading across the twelve numbers (which represent population data) they should be interpreted as follows:
    1. Number of males under 10 years of age.
    2. Number of males between 10 and 16 years of age.
    3. Number of males between 16 and 26 years of age.
    4. Number of males between 26 and 45 years of age.
    5. Number of males over 45 years of age.
    6. Number of females under 10 years of age.
    7. Number of females between 10 and 16 years of age.
    8. Number of females between 16 and 26 years of age.
    9. Number of females between 26 and 45 years of age.
    10. Number of females over 45 years of age.
    11. Number of other free persons in that family, except Indians not taxed.
    12. Number of slaves.

The Population data reveals that Rebecca Jones’ household had 1 female between the ages of 16 and 26 years of age and 1 female over 45 years of age.

At this point there is no reason to use the 1800 Census: Pennsylvania on microfilm.  All the data on the reels has been transcribed and included in the entry described in Step 3 above. However, should you wish to use the reels to confirm the data or for other research purposes, the following steps describe how to locate the original ledger entry for the person you are searching (For an example of the original ledger entry you will find on the microfilm see Example 2 below).   

Step 4: Before leaving the Pennsylvania Census Index volume, write down the following information from the Pennsylvania Census Index:

  • Name (first and last)
  • County
  • The page on the microfilm (152, in this example).

Then, locate the 1800 Census: Pennsylvania on microfilm in Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, in the microfilm cabinets under the call number HA217.U5P4 1800 reels 35 – 44. The reels are arranged by call number in alphabetical order by county.  The National Archives: lists the contents for the 1800 Federal Population Census microfilm reels. This information has also been transcribed into a chart on the next to last page of the document.

If you need any help locating this call number in  Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, microfilm cabinets, please ASK the staff at the Reference Desk.

Step 5:  For our example, to locate the original ledger entry for Rebecca Jones, find reel No. 43 of the 1800 Census: Pennsylvania containing the “City of Philadelphia and Somerset and Venango Counties”. 

At this point you will need to use a microfilm reader/printer/scanner machine in  Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, to locate and read the entry for Rebecca Jones. Please ASK the staff at the Reference Desk for help if you are unfamiliar with the machines.

Step 6: Now, using our example, Rebecca Jones, you will first need to find the original ledger page (152) by scrolling through the microfilm until you locate page 152.  These ledger Page Numbers are handwritten on the right side of the page, perpendicular to the entry information. (See Example 2 below).

A blank 1800 census form can be viewed and printed to assist your collection of data from the microfilm.

Example 2:  Showing the location of the page number on the original page ledger.

1800 original page ledger

Then, you will need to locate Rebecca Jones’ name on the ledger page. 

Names of individuals are not in alphabetical order on the ledger page. Read the page carefully to locate Rebecca Jones’ name. 
The 19th Century script and the microfilm quality can sometimes present interesting challenges for the researcher!

1800 census showing original script

Example 3: Showing the names on Ledger Page 152 and Rebecca Jones’ name on that page. 

Read across from Rebecca Jones through the numbers in each of the 12 columns. These should correspond exactly to the numbers included in the Pennsylvania Census Index (See Step 3 above)

Reel No. Names of Counties (Pennsylvania) Note
1800 Census: Pennsylvania Reels 35-44
Reel 35 Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Berks  
Reel 36 Beaver, Bedford, Bucks, Butler, Chester  
Reel 37 Centre, Lehigh, Mifflin, Northampton, Northumberland Centre + Potter Townships at  the beginning
Reel 38 Crawford, Cumberland, Delaware, Fayette, Franklin  
Reel 39 Lancaster, Luzerne, Mercer  
Reel 40 Dauphin, Erie, Greene, Huntington  
Reel 41 Lycoming, Montgomery, Westmoreland  
Reel 42 Philadelphia Excluding the city of Philadelphia
Reel 43

City of Philadelphia;  Somerset, Venango

Reel 44 Warren, Washington, York, Wayne