Objective: To locate a specific person who lived in Pennsylvania in 1820.
In this example we are tracking Catharine Clemens, who we believe lived in Pennsylvania and should have been counted in the Federal Population Census for Pennsylvania in 1820. We want to confirm this information and determine any other information about her family collected by the census enumerator in 1820.
1820 Census: Pennsylvania reel listing located at bottom 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.
A blank 1820 census form (Ancestry.com) can be downloaded and printed to assist your collection of data from the microfilm.
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 book titled, Pennsylvania Census Index (Call number: HA605.P45 1820) in the Indexes and Guides Section.
Step 2: Locate the person you are searching in the Pennsylvania Census Index. Names are listed in alphabetical order by last name. To follow along with our example, you will find CLEMENS, CATHARINE listed in the right hand column of page 61. See Example 1 below.
Example 1: Showing the entry for Clemens, Catharine in the Pennsylvania Census Index
During this census, only the name of the head of household was collected. Therefore, the census predominately lists male names. For a woman to be listed in the census, she would have to be considered the head of household and in many cases would be widowed or unmarried.
Step 3: Review the entry information provided for each name in the Pennsylvania Census Index. We have highlighted in red the information for Clemens, Catharine in Example 1 above.
Visit US GenWeb Census Project to determine if any census information is recorded online for Catharine Clemens in 1820. This is an ongoing project with new data continuously being added [Note: If the census records for 1820 for Montgomery County are not available online, use the Census data available on Microfilm.]
Then, locate the 1820 Census: Pennsylvania on microfilm in Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, in the cabinets under the call number HA217.U5P4 1820 (reels 96 – 114). The National Archives lists the contents for the 1820 Federal Population Census microfilm reels. This information has also been transcribed into a chart near the end 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 Desk.
Step 5: For our example, to locate the original ledger entry for Clemens, Catharine, find reel No. 100 of the 1820 Census: Pennsylvania containing Bucks County (Part II) and Montgomery County.
At this point you will need to use a microfilm reader/printer/scanner in Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, to locate and read the entry for Catharine Clemens. Please ASK the staff at the Reference Desk for help if you are unfamiliar with the machines.
Step 6: Now, using our example, Catharine Clemens, you will first need to find the original ledger page (199) by scrolling through the microfilm. The ledger page number is shown in example 2 below. It is typed and is located on the bottom left hand side of the page, perpendicular to the entry information. However, the ledger page numbers are not always in the same location on the page, so if you do not find it in the bottom left then continue to review the remainder of the page.
Example 2: Showing the location of the page number on the original page ledger.
At the beginning of the microfilm and then periodically throughout the ledgers there will be a ledger page with the column headings. The Head of the Family’s name is listed, followed by a series of 32 columns with numbers which should be interpreted as follows:
Names of individuals are not in alphabetical order on the ledger page. Read the page carefully to locate Catharine Clemens’ name. The 19th Century script and the microfilm quality can sometimes present interesting challenges for the researcher!
Example 3: Showing a close up of Catharine Clemens name and information on page 199.
(There was no additional information in the remaining columns to the right.)
Catharine Clemens’ household had a total of eight people in 1820. There were 3 white males between sixteen and twenty-six years of age, 1 white female under the age of ten, 2 white females between ten and sixteen years of age, 1 white female between sixteen and twenty-six, and 1 white female age forty-five or older. We also know that 2 of the household members worked in agriculture and 1 in the manufacturing trade.
|Reel No.||Names of Counties (Pennsylvania)||Note|
|Reel 96||Adams, Beaver, Chester|
|Reel 97||Allegheny, Armstrong|
|Reel 98||Bedford, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cntre, Clearfield, Greene|
|Reel 99||Berks, Bucks (part 1)|
|Reel 100||Bucks (part 2), Montgomery|
|Reel 101||Columbia, Crawford, Franklin|
|Reel 102||Cumberland, Dauphin, Erie, Mifflin|
|Reel 103||Delaware, Fayette|
|Reel 104||Huntingdon, Leheigh, Northampton, Perry|
|Reel 105||Indiana, Jefferson. Lebanon, Luzerne|
|Reel 107||Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Northumberland, Potter|
|Reel 108||City of Philadelphia|
|Reel 109||Philadelphia (part 1)||excludes the city of Philadelphia|
|Reel 110||Philadelphia (part 2)||excludes the city of Philadelphia|
|Reel 111||Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset|
|Reel 112||Susquehanna, Wayne, Westmoreland|
|Reel 113||Tioga, Union, Warren, Washington|
|Reel 114||Venango, York|