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Census: Microfilm Collections & Services

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

1810 Census

Objective: To locate a specific person who lived in Pennsylvania in 1810. 

In this example, we are tracking William Franklin who, we believe, lived in Philadelphia and may have been counted in the Federal Population Census for Pennsylvania in 1810.  We want to confirm this information and determine any other information about his household collected by the census enumerator in 1810. 

1810 Census: Pennsylvania reel listing located at end of 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 1810) in the Indexes and Guides Section.  These volumes contain the names listed in the 1810 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 William Franklin listed in the fourth column on page 87 as FRANKLIN, Wm.  See Example 1 below.

1810 census

Example 1: Showing the entry for Franklin, Wm in the Pennsylvania Census Index


Visit US GenWeb Census Project to determine if any census information is recorded online for William Franklin in 1810.  This is an ongoing project with new data continuously being added [Note:  for this example, as of 4/21/08, the census records for 1810 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 William Franklin in Example 1 above.

This includes:

  • Last Name, first Name - - Franklin, Wm
  • Code - - PWCD
  • The page on the microfilm - - 615

The ‘Key to Code and Page Numbers’ can be found on page III through page XXVI in the Pennsylvania Census Index.

The Code PWCD is Philadelphia City PW, Cedar Ward and is found on page XXIII of the Pennsylvania Census Index.

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 (615, in this example)

Then, locate the 1810 Census: Pennsylvania on microfilm in Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, in the microfilms cabinets under the call number HA217.U5P4 1810 reels 44-57.  The reels are arranged by call number in alphabetical order by county.  The National Archives lists the contents for the 1810 Federal Population Census microfilm reels. This information has also been transcribed into a chart on the next to last page of this 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, in order to locate the original ledger entry for William Franklin, we will find reel No. 55 of the 1810 Census Population Schedules containing the ‘City of Philadelphia.’

The reel is labeled:

  • City of Philadelphia

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

Step 6: After loading the film on the microfilm reader/printer/scanner machine we will search for page 615 using the handwritten page numbers that are located in the bottom right hand corner of the microfilm. A blank 1810 census form can be viewed and printed to assist your collection of data from the microfilm.

1810 census ledger containing column headings

Example 2: Contains the column headings for the ledger.

In 1810, the Head of the Family’s name is listed, followed by a series of 12 columns with numbers which should be interpreted as follows:

  1. Number of free white males under ten years of age.
  2. Number of free white males under sixteen
  3. Number of free white males under twenty-six
  4. Number of free white males under forty-five
  5. Number of free white males forty-five and upwards
  6. Number of free white females under ten years of age
  7. Number of free white females under sixteen
  8. Number of free white females under twenty-six
  9. Number of free white females under forty-five
  10. Number of free white females forty-five and upwards
  11. Number of other free persons, except Indians not taxed.
  12. Number of Slaves

While reviewing the microfilm, it will be noted that the columns of numbers should be read from left to right because there are instances where the 12th column seems to be omitted from the page. There are several pages where the 12th column has dashes and then several pages where the 12th column is completely blank.

Names of individuals are not in alphabetical order on the ledger page. Read the page carefully to locate William Franklin’s name.  The 19th century script and the microfilm quality can all present interesting challenges for the researcher!

1810 census ledger with 19th century script

Example 3: Showing the names on ledger page 249, microfilm page 615 and the details for William Franklin  

William Franklin’s household had a total of eight people in 1810.  There were 3 white males under the age of ten, 2 white males over the age of forty-five, 1 white female under the age of ten, 1 white female between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, and 1 white female over the age of forty-five.

Reel No. Names of Counties ( Pennsylvania) Notes
1810 Census: Pennsylvania reels 44-57
Reel 44 Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong  
Reel 45 Bedford (Part I), Beaver, Berks  
Reel 46 Bedford (Part II), Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Centre  
Reel 47 Chester, Clearfield, Crawford, Delaware  
Reel 48 Cumberland, Erie  
Reel 49 Greene, Indiana, Luzerne  
Reel 50 Lancaster  
Reel 51 Huntingdon, Jefferson, McKean, Mifflin, Northampton, Tioga, Westmoreland  
Reel 52  Lycoming, Mercer, Montgomery  
Reel 53 Northumberland, Potter, Somerset, Venango, Warren  
Reel 54 Dauphin, Fayette, Franklin  
Reel 55 City of Philadelphia  
Reel 56 Philadelphia County (excluding city of Philadelphia)
Reel 57

Washington, Wayne, York