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Census: Microfilm Collections & Services

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

1790 Census

Objective: To locate a specific person who lived in Pennsylvania in 1790. In this example we are tracking James Adair, who lived in Cumberland County and may have been counted in the Federal Population Census for Pennsylvania in 1790. We want to confirm this information and determine any other information about his family collected by the census enumerator in 1790. 

The first Federal Population Census was conducted in 1790, and has taken place every ten years since then.  The census schedules from 1800 – 1930 are available on microfilm in Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno.   

The 1790 microfilm reels are available at the Penn State York Library HA607.Y67 1790.

Reel No. Names of Counties (Pennsylvania)
Reel 8 Berks, Chester, Delaware, Huntington, Mifflin (part), Luverne, Dauphin, Northampton, Cumberland, Fayette, Westmoreland (part), Bucks, Lancaster
Reel 9 Montgomery, Westmoreland (part), Allegheny, Washington, Bedford, Franklin, York, Northumberland, Mifflin (part), Philadelphia


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.

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.
Please note that the microfilm constitutes the primary source and should be consulted for errors in transcription.    

For our example, the following information was found on the USGenWeb Census Project.

Go to the name index for James Adair. From this link, it is noted that the census information for James Adair is on page 11, line 11.

See Page 11 for Cumberland County in 1790.

Download and print a blank 1790 census form. This can assist your collection of data from the microfilm.

Example: (below) Showing on page 11, line 11 we find the entry for James Adair which indicates that he is a free white male, and that there were 7 people in this household, three males (one over 16 years of age, and two under 16 years of age) and 4 females

1790 census

In 1790, the following information was collected:

  • County
  • City
  • Page
  • Names of head of families
  • Free white males 16 years of age and upwards, including heads of families
  • Free white males under 16 years of age
  • Free white females including heads of families
  • All other free persons
  • Slaves