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Census: Microfilm Collections & Services

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

1820 Census

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. 

1820 Pennsylvania Census Index

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. 

This includes:

  • Last name, first name -- Clemens, Catharine
  • Place (county)-- Mont
  • The page on the microfilm--199
  • First eight letters or spaces of the census division within each county – Gwynedd

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.

 

1820 Pennsylvania original ledger

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:

  • Free White Males
    • Number of free white males under ten years of age.
    • Number of free white males of ten and under sixteen
    • Number of free white males between sixteen and eighteen
    • Number of free white males of sixteen and under twenty-six, including heads of families
    • Number of free white males of  twenty-six and under forty-five, including heads of families
    • Number of free white males forty-five and upwards, including heads of families
  • Free White Females
    • Number of free white females under ten years of age
    • Number of free white females of ten and under sixteen
    • Number of free white females of sixteen and under twenty-six, including heads of families
    • Number of free white females of twenty-six and under forty-five, including heads of families
    • Number of free white females of forty-five and upwards, including heads of families
  • Foreigners not naturalized.
  • Number of persons engaged in Agriculture
  • Number of persons engaged in Commerce
  • Number of persons engaged in Manufactures
  • Slaves
    • Male slaves under fourteen
    • Male slaves of fourteen and under twenty-six
    • Male slaves of twenty-six and under forty-five
    • Male slaves of forty-five and upwards
    • Female slaves under fourteen
    • Female slaves of fourteen and under twenty-six
    • Female slaves of twenty-six and under forty-five
    • Females slaves of forty-five and upwards
  • Free Colored Persons
    • Free colored males under fourteen
    • Free colored males of fourteen and under twenty-six
    • Free colored males of twenty-six and under forty-five
    • Free colored males of forty-five and upwards
    • Free colored females under fourteen
    • Free colored females of fourteen and under twenty-six
    • Free colored females of twenty-six and under forty-five
    • Free colored females of forty-five and upwards
  • All other persons, except Indians not taxed

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!

1820 Census script

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.

 

1820 Census: Pennsylvania reels 96 - 114
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 106 Lancaster  
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