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Census: Microfilm Collections & Services

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

1840 Census

Objective: To locate a specific person who lived in Pennsylvania in 1840.  In this example we are tracking Elizabeth Haines, who lived in Pennsylvania, and may have been counted in the Federal Population Census for Pennsylvania in 1840.  We want to confirm this information and determine any other information about her family collected by the census enumerator in 1840. 

1840 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. 

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

Step 1:  Begin in the Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, and locate the book titled, Pennsylvania 1840 Census Index (Call number: HA605.P45 1840) in the Indexes and Guides Section.  

The beginning of Pennsylvania 1840 Census Index also includes a list of the Census schedules taken from 1790 through 1900, instructions as instituted by Congressional Law from 1789 to 1850, and a chronological list of territories, in addition to the map of Pennsylvania along with the individual maps of the Pennsylvania Counties in 1840.

Step 2:  Locate the person you are searching in the Pennsylvania 1840 Census Index. Names are listed in alphabetical order by last name.  To follow along with our example, you will find HAINES, ELIZABETH listed on page 261.  See Example 1 below. 

There were four Elizabeth Haines’ in Pennsylvania noted during the 1840 Census.  For our example, we are following Elizabeth Haines who lived in the North Mulberry Township of Philadelphia County.

Example 1:  Showing entries for Elizabeth Haines.

1840 PA Census - names

Step 3:  Review the entry information provided for each name entry in the Pennsylvania 1840 Census Index. We have highlighted in red the information for Haines, Elizabeth in Example 1 above. 

This includes:

  • Last name, first name --Haines, Elizabeth
  • Four Letter County Code-- PHIL
  • The page on the microfilm--036
  • Census Division within the County (first eight letters)—N MUL

Visit US GenWeb Census Project  to determine if any census information is recorded online for Elizabeth Haines in 1840.  This is an ongoing project with new data continuously being added [Note:  If census records are not available online, it will be neccessary to view the Census data available on microfilm.]

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

  • Name (first and last)
  • County
  • The page on the microfilm (036, in this example).

Then, locate the 1840 Census: Pennsylvania on microfilm in  Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, in the microfilm cabinets under the call number HA217.U5P4 1840 reels 435 – 503. The National Archives lists the contents for the 1840 Federal Population Census microfilm reels. 

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 Elizabeth Haines, find reel No. 481 containing the “City of Philadelphia, census division N Mulberry”

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 Elizabeth Haines. Please ASK the staff at the Reference Desk for help if you are unfamiliar with the machines.

Step 6:  Now, using our example, Elizabeth Haines, you will need to find the original ledger page (36) by scrolling through the microfilm until you locate page 36.  The page numbers can be found on the upper right hand corner of the second microfilm page (See Example 2 below).

A blank 1840 census form [from Ancestry.com] 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.1840 page ledger

The frame with the ledger page number will be the second of two consecutive frames that contain all of the information from the original ledger entry.  Therefore, in order to find the name of the person you are seeking, you will need to view the frame prior to the one with the page number. 

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

Example 3: Showing the names on the first frame of ledger page 36.  Elizabeth Haines is the 19th entry on that page. 

1840 Census names

Example 4:  Showing the second frame of ledger page 36.  Elizabeth Haines’ information is contained in the 19th row.

1840 ledger page 36

Elizabeth Haines’ household had a total of six people in 1840.  There were 2 white males of twenty and under thirty, 3 white females of twenty and under thirty and 1 white female of forty and under fifty.  We also know that 1 of these persons was employed in Commerce, and 1 of these persons was employed in Manufactures and Trade.

In 1840, the following information was collected and recorded by the census enumerator.  The Head of the Family is listed, followed by a series of numbers in columns which should be interpreted as follows:

  1. Free White Males, including heads of families
    1. Number of free white males under five years of age
    2. Number of free white males of five and under ten
    3. Number of free white males of ten and under fifteen
    4. Number of free white males of fifteen and under twenty
    5. Number of free white males of  twenty and under thirty
    6. Number of free white males of thirty and under forty
    7. Number of free white males of forty and under fifty
    8. Number of free white males of fifty and under sixty
    9. Number of free white males of sixty and under seventy
    10. Number of free white males of seventy and under eighty
    11. Number of free white males of eight and under ninety
    12. Number of free white males of ninety and under one hundred
    13. Number of free white males of one hundred and upwards
  2. Free White Females, including heads of families
    1. Number of free white females under five years of age
    2. Number of free white females of five and under ten
    3. Number of free white females of ten and under fifteen
    4. Number of free white females of fifteen and under twenty
    5. Number of free white females of  twenty and under thirty
    6. Number of free white females of thirty and under forty
    7. Number of free white females of forty and under fifty
    8. Number of free white females of fifty and under sixty
    9. Number of free white females of sixty and under seventy
    10. Number of free white females of seventy and under eighty
    11. Number of free white females of eight and under ninety
    12. Number of free white females of ninety and under one hundred
    13. Number of free white females of one hundred and upwards
  3. Free Colored Persons
    1. Free colored males under ten years of age
    2. Free colored males of ten and under twenty-four
    3. Free colored males of twenty-four and under thirty-six
    4. Free colored males of thirty-six and under fifty-five
    5. Free colored males of fifty-five and under one hundred
    6. Free colored males of one hundred and upwards
    7. Free colored females under ten years of age
    8. Free colored females of ten and under twenty-four
    9. Free colored females of twenty-four and under thirty-six
    10. Free colored females of thirty-six and under fifty-five
    11. Free colored females of fifty-five and under one hundred
    12. Free colored females of one hundred and upwards
  4. Slaves
    1. Male slaves under ten years of age
    2. Male slaves of ten and under twenty-four
    3. Male slaves of twenty-four and under thirty-six
    4. Male slaves of thirty-six and under fifty-five
    5. Male slaves of fifty-five and under one hundred
    6. Male slaves of one hundred and upwards
    7. Female slaves under ten years of age
    8. Female slaves of ten and under twenty-four
    9. Female slaves of twenty-four and under thirty-six
    10. Female slaves of thirty-six and under fifty-five
    11. Female slaves of fifty-five and under one hundred
    12. Female slaves of one hundred and upwards
  5. Number of persons in each family employed in:
    1. Mining
    2. Agriculture
    3. Commerce
    4. Manufactures and trade
    5. Navigation of the Ocean
    6. Navigation of the canals, lakes, and rivers
    7. Learned profession and engineers
    8. Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services, included in the foregoing
    9. Ages
  6. White persons included in the foregoing
    1. Who are deaf and dumb, under fourteen years of age
    2. Who are deaf and dumb, of fourteen and under twenty-five
    3. Who are deaf and dumb, of twenty-five and upwards
    4. Who are blind
    5. Insane and idiots at public charge
    6. Insane and idiots at private charge
  7. Colored persons included in the foregoing
    1. Who are deaf and dumb
    2. Who are blind
    3. Who are insane and idiots at private charge
    4. Who are insane and idiots at public charge
  8. Schools
    1. Universities or colleges
    2. Number of students
    3. Academies and grammar schools
    4. Number of scholars
    5. Primary and common schools
    6. Number of scholars
    7. Number of scholars at public charge
    8. Number of white persons over twenty years old in each family who cannot read and write
Reel No. Names of Counties (Pennsylvania) Note

1840 Census: Pennsylvania reels 435 - 503

Reel 435 Adams  
Reel 436 Berks (part) Reading, Maxatawney, Kent Town, Albany, Greenwich, Maiden Creek, Windsor
Reel 437 Berks (part) Richmond, Long Swamp, Ruscombmanor (Ruscomb Manor), Rockland, Exeter, Oley, Amaty (Amity), Alsace
Reel 438 Berks (part) Douglass, Colebrookdale, Washington, Earl, Upper Tulpehocken, Cumru, Robeson, Union, Brecknook, Caernarvon, Bern, Womelsdorf, Heidelberg, Upper Bern, Tulpehocken, Pike, District, Hereford, Millerstown, Bethel
Reel 439 Allegheny (part) Ohio, Franklin, Pine, Roso, West Deer, East Deer, Lower St. Clair, Upper St. Clair, Jefferson, Mifflin, Indiana, Reserve
Reel 440 Allegheny (part) Fayette, Findlay, Moore, Robinson, Birmingham, City of Allegheny, Elizabeth
Reel 441 Allegheny (part) City of Pittsburgh, Pilt, Pebbles, Versailles, Plum, Wilkins
Reel 442 Armstrong  
Reel 443 Bradford  
Reel 444 Beaver  
Reel 445 Bedford  
Reel 446 Bucks (part) Solesbury, Plumstead, Bedminster, Tinicum, Nochamixon
Reel 446 Bucks (part) Southampton, Bristol, Bristol Borough, Fallingston, Bensalem, Northampton, Morrisville Borough, Middletown, Durham, Springfield, East Rockhill, Milford, Hilltown, West Rockhill, Haycock, Richland, Doylestown, New Britton, Warrington, Warminster, Warwick, Wrightstown, New Hope, Buckingham, Newton, Upper Wakefield, Lower Wakefield
Reel 448 Butler  
Reel 449 Columbia  
Reel 450 Clinton  
Reel 451 Cambria and Centre  
Reel 452 Crawford  
Reel 453 Chester (part) Brandywine, Honeybrook, West Caln, West Nantmeal, East Nantmeal, West Bradford, East Bradford, East Caln, West Fallowfield, East Fallowfield, Sadsbury, West Chester, West Goshen, East Goshen, Westtown, Thornbury, Birmingham, Schuylkill, Charlestown, Tredyffrin, East Pike land, West Pikeland
Reel 454 Chester (part) Londonderry, New London, West Nottingham, Lower Oxford, Upper Oxford, Penn, West Marlborough, London Grove, Uwchlan, East Vincent, West Vincent, Coventry, Kennett, East Marlborough, New garden, Pennsbury, London Britain, Newlin, West Whiteland, East Whiteland, Williamstown, Easttown
Reel 455 Cumberland  
Reel 456 Dauphin  
Reel 457 Delaware  
Reel 458 Franklin  
Reel 459 Erie  
Reel 460 Fayette  
Reel 461 Greene  
Reel 462 Huntingdon  
Reel 463 Indiana  
Reel 464 Jefferson and Juniata  
Reel 465 Lancaster (part) City of Lancaster, Rapho, Manheim, West Donagal, East Hampfield, East Donagal, Marietta, Mt. Joy, Manor, Columbia, West Hampfield
Reel 466 Lancaster (part) Little Britain, Durmore, Martick, Salisbury, Colerain, Strawsburg, Sadsbury, Lancaster, Bart, Coenestogo
Reel 467 Lancaster (part) Seacock, Lampeter, East Cocalico, West Cocalico, Elizabeth, Ephrata, West Earl, Earl, Carnaervon, Brecknock
Reel 468 Lebanon  
Reel 469 Lehigh  
Reel 470 Monroe  
Reel 471 Luzerne (part) Jefferson, Greenfield, Covington, Benton, Blakeley, Buck, Butler, Carbondale, Denison, Hanover, Hazel, Lackawanna, Newport, Nescopeck, Providence, Pittston, Sugarloaf, Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes-Barre borough
Reel 472 Luzerne (part) Windham, Kingston, Tunkhannock, Exeter, Eaton, Northmoreland, Abington, Salem, Falls, Nicholson, Dallas, Monroe, Braintrim, Lehman, Plymouth, Fairmont, Union, Huntington, Washington
Reel 473 Lycoming  
Reel 474 Mercer  
Reel 475 Mifflin, McKean, Northumberland  
Reel 476 Potter and Susquehanna  
Reel 477 Montgomery (part) Chiltonham, Horsham, Abington, Moreland, Montgomery, Gwynedd, Franconia, Hatfield, Skippack, Perkiomin, Worcester, Frederick, Douglass, Upper Hanover, Upper Salford, Lower Salford, Towamencin (Towamensing)
Reel 478 Montgomery (part) Pottstown, Pottsgrove, Limerick, Upper Providence, New Hanover, Marlboro (Marlborough), Lower Providence, Norristown, Norriton, Plymouth, Lower Merion, Whitemarsh (White Marsh), Springfield, Upper Dublin, Whitpaine
Reel 479 Northampton  
Reel 480 Perry  
Reel 481 City of Philadelphia N Mulberry, S Mulberry, and Upper Delaware Wards
Reel 482 City of Philadelphia N, High St, Chestnut, and Middle Wards
Reel 483 City of Philadelphia S, Walnut, Dock and Locust Wards
Reel 484 City of Philadelphia New Market, Cedar, and Pine Wards
Reel 485 Philadelphia County (part)

City of Northern Liberties, Wards 1-7

Reel 486 Philadelphia County (part) Southwark, Wards 1-5
Reel 487 Philadelphia County (part) Spring Garden, Wards 1-4
Reel 488 Philadelphia County (part) Kensington, Wards 1-5
Reel 489 Philadelphia County (part) Blockley, West Philadelphia, Bristol, Byberry, Moreland, Lower Dublin, Germantown
Reel 490 Philadelphia County (part) Kings Spring, Moyamensing
Reel 491 Philadelphia County (part)

Northern Liberties (township), Oxford, Frankford, Pattyunk, North Penn, South Penn, Roxborough

Reel 492 Pike and Schuylkill  
Reel 493 Wayne  
Reel 494 Somerset  
Reel 495 Tioga  
Reel 496 Union  
Reel 497 Venango (includes part of Westmoreland County)
Reel 498 Westmoreland  
Reel 499 Washington  
Reel 500 Clearfield  
Reel 501 York (part) Dover, Springfield, Manheim, Shrewsbury, Codorus, North Codorus, Hanover, Heidelburg, Paradise, York (borough), Manchester
Reel 502 York (part) Warrington, Washington, Monaghan, Fairview, Lewisbury, Newbury, Conenago, Dillsburgh, Franklin, Carroll
Reel 503 York (part) Fawn, Hopewell, Lower Windsor, York, Upper Windsor, Hellam, Wrightsville, Peach Bottom, Lower Chanceford, Chanceford, West Manchester, Spring Garden