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Census: Microfilm Collections & Services

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

1880 Census

Objective: To locate a specific person who lived in Pennsylvania in 1880.  In this example we are tracking Jessie Dowlin, who lived in Pennsylvania and should have been counted during the Federal Population Census for Pennsylvania in 1880 Census.  We want to confirm this information and determine any other information about his family collected by the census enumerator in 1880. 

1880 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 Onlinecontains 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.

In indexing 1880 census, the soundex code was used.  The Soundex Code is a phonetic algorithm for indexing names by the way they sound instead of the way they are spelled (Smith, Smithe, and Smyth). Soundex can help find a surname in the census documents even though it may have been recorded under various spellings.

Step 1:    Begin by finding the Soundex Code for the name of the person you are trying to locate.    Visit Soundex Converter Calculator [Ancestor Search] to have the Soundex code identified.    For information about how Soundex codes are calculated, see the National Archives, "The Soundex Indexing System."

To calculate the Soundex Code without access to the internet, locate the book titled, Federal Population Censuses. 1790-1890 (call numberHA37.U548 F44 1976) in the Indexes and Guides Section of  Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, and follow the instructions on page 90.  

The Soundex Code for Dowlin is D450

Step 2: Determine which microfilm reel contains the Soundex Index for the person you are researching.  In Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, the microfilm reels for the Index (Soundex) to the 12th census, 1900: PA are located at HA216.P4 1880 (Reels 1-168) Go to the reels and find the Soundex Code which is listed on the outside of the boxes.  (Reel 36 contains the Soundex index for D-421 thru D-514)      

This information can also be found in the Indexes and Guides Section of Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, use the reference index Federal Population Censuses 1790-1890 HA37.U548 F44 1976 which contains the 1880 Soundex Index.  (On page 82 it shows that D450 would be found on reel 36.) 

Alternatively, a list of the Soundex Index for Pennsylvania in 1880 can be accessed online at the National Archives site.

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 Soundex Index for Jessie Dowlin. Please ASK the staff at the Reference Desk for help if you are unfamiliar with the machines. You can view the Soundex on line at the Internet Archive.

Step 3:  Locate the person you are researching in the Soundex Index.  For our example, scroll through roll 36 until you get to section D450.  Continue through the cards until you get to Dowlin, Jessie.  There may be more than one person with the same name, at which point you will need to review the information presented until you confirm that you have the person that you are looking for.  For our example, Jessie Dowlin, was a 50 year old male who lived in Greene County and was married to Eliza.  See example 1.

Image of the  Index (soundex) for Jessie Dowlin.

Example 1:  The Index (soundex) for Jessie Dowlin.

From the Soundex Index we know the following:  Jessie Dowlin was a 50 year old white male who lived in Greene County, PA.  There were 3 people in his household including:  his wife, Eliza A Dowlin (46 year old female), and his niece Liza A Huston (4 year old female.)  All three people were born in PA. 

Visit US GenWeb Census Project to determine if any census information is recorded online for Jessie Dowlin in 1880.  This is an ongoing project with new data continuously being added [Note:  for this example, as of 5/14/08, the census records for 1880 for Greene County are partially available online.  See links below:]

View the transcribed index. View the transcribed entry. (According to the transcribed information, Jessie Dowlin is the head of the household.  He is a 50 year old white male who lives with his wife Eliza A. Dowlin a 46 year old white female and his niece Liza A. Huston a 4 year old white female.  Jessie is a farmer, and Eliza keeps house.)  Since this is a transcription of the original documentation, it is subject to human error.  To view the original document via the microfilm, continue with step 4.

Step 4: In cases where the original information is not available online, the original document can be viewed through the microfilm at Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, at Penn State.  Write down the following information from the index:

  • Head of Family:  Dowlin, Jessie
  • County: Greene
  • Volume: 7
  • E.D. (Enumeration District): 68
  • Sheet (page number): 9
  • Line:  45

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:  Locate the 1880 Census: Pennsylvania on microfilm in Microforms & Government Information, 2nd floor Paterno, in the microfilm cabinets under the call number HA217.U5PA 1880 (reels 1085 – 1208). The reels are arranged by call number in alphabetical order by county.  Reel #1133 contains all of Greene County which is the resident county for Jessie Dowlin. 

information iconMany counties take up more than one roll of microfilm, in these cases it is necessary to have the E.D. (Enumeration District) information so you can determine which roll has the person you are researching.  The National Archives website lists the contents, including enumeration district, for the 1880 Federal Population Census Microfilm Reels. This information has also been transcribed into a chart at the end.

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

Step 6: Now, using our example, Jessie Dowlin, you will need to find Greene County, and then scroll through to Enumeration District 68.  Jessie Dowlin is listed on page 9, line 45.  See example 2.

Image showing the enumeration district and page number, located at the top right corner. The numbers are outlined with a red box.

Example 2:  Showing the enumeration district and page number

Then, you will need to locate Jessie Dowlin’s name on the ledger page.

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

Image showing Jessie Dowlin’s information on the original ledger page. Information is outlined with a red box,

Example 3: Showing Jessie Dowlin’s information on the original ledger page. 

Referencing the original ledger page we now get additional information including occupations for Jessie (Farmer) and Eliza (Keeping House) and that all three members of the family were born in PA and that their parents were also born in PA.

Step 7:  Review the information collection for Jessie Dowlin in the 1880 census.  See example 3.


A blank 1880 census form can be viewed and printed to assist your collection of data from the microfilm.

In 1880, the following 26 columns of information were collected:

  1. Dwelling – houses numbered in the order of visitation
  2. Families – numbered in order of visitation
  3. The name of every person whose usual place of abode on the first day of June 1880 was in this family
  4. Color
  5. Sex
  6. Age
  7. If born within the census year, give the month
  8. Relationship of each person to the head of this family
  9. Single
  10. Married
  11. Widowed/Divorced
  12. Married within the census year
  13. Profession, occupation, or trade of each person, male or female
  14. Number of months this person has been unemployed during the census year
  15. Is the person (on the day of the Enumerator’s visit) sick or temporarily disabled so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties?  If so, what is the sickness or disability?
  16. Blind
  17. Deaf and dumb
  18. Idiotic
  19. Insane
  20. Maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled
  21. Attended school within census year
  22. Cannot read
  23. Cannot write
  24. Place of birth of this person, naming State or Territory of the United States, or the Country if foreign born.
  25. Place of birth of the Father of this person, naming State or Territory of the United States, or the Country if foreign born.
  26. Place of birth of the Mother of this person, naming State or Territory of the United States, or the Country if foreign born.
1880 Census: Pennsylvania reels 1085 - 1208
Reel No. Names of Counties (Pennsylvania) Note

Reel 1085



Reel 1086

Allegheny (City)

Wards 1-4

Reel 1087

Allegheny (City)

Wards 4-7

Reel 1088

Allegheny (City)

Wards 8-13

Reel 1089


Excluding cities of

Allegheny and Pittsburgh

Reel 1090


Excluding cities of

Allegheny and Pittsburgh

Reel 1091


Includes city of

Pittsburgh, Wards 1-5

Reel 1092

City of Pittsburgh

Wards 5-12

Reel 1093

City of Pittsburgh

Wards 13-19

Reel 1094

City of Pittsburgh

Wards 19-27

Reel 1095

City of Pittsburgh, Armstrong

Ward 27 and

Beginning of Armstrong County EDs 1-4

Reel 1096


ED 5

Reel 1097



Reel 1098



Reel 1099


EDs 1-26, sheet 39

Reel 1100


ED 27, sheet 1-ED 37, sheet 23; ED 60, sheet 1-ED 69, sheet 10

Reel 1101


ED 69, sheet 11-ED 73, sheet 41; ED 38, sheet 1-ED 53, sheet 22

Reel 1102

Berks, Blair

Berks County ED 53, sheet 23-ED 59, sheet 47

Blair County EDs 1-160, sheet 12

Reel 1103


ED 160, sheet 13-end

Reel 1104


EDs 1-26, sheet 34

Reel 1105

Bradford, Bucks

Bradford County EDs 1-26, sheet 34

Bucks County EDs1-135, sheet 24

Reel 1106


ED 135, sheet 25-ED 159, sheet 59

Reel 1107

Bucks, Carbon

Bucks County ED 160, sheet 1-end

Carbon County EDs 1-115, sheet 24

Reel 1108

Carbon, Butler

Carbon County ED 115, sheet 25-end

Butler County ED 39, sheet 10

Reel 1109


ED 39, sheet 11-end

Reel 1110


EDs 1-201, sheet 8

Cambria County EDs 1-201, sheet 8

Reel 1111

Cambria, Cameron

Cambria County ED 201, sheet 9-end

Cameron County

Reel 1112


EDs 1-235, sheet 54

Reel 1113

Centre, Clinton, Chester

Centre County ED 235, sheet 55-end

Clinton County

Chester County EDs 1-47, sheet 4

Reel 1114


ED 47, sheet 5-ED 75, sheet 28

Reel 1115


ED 75, sheet 29-end

Reel 1116


EDs 1-274, sheet 43

Reel 1117

Clearfield, Clarion

Clearfield County ED 275, sheet 1-end

Clarion County EDs 77, sheet 30

Reel 1118

Clarion, Columbia

Clarion County ED 77, sheet 31-end

Columbia County EDs 1-178, sheet 4

Reel 1119

Columbia, Crawford

Columbia County ED 178, sheet 5-end

Crawford County EDs 1-105, sheet 4

Reel 1120


ED 105, sheet 3-ED 115, sheet24

Reel 1121

Crawford, Cumberland

Crawford County ED 105, sheet 3-ED 115, sheet 24

Cumberland County EDs 1-69, sheet 6

Reel 1122


ED 69, sheet 7-end

Reel 1123


EDs 1-96, sheet 32

Reel 1124


ED 96, sheet 33-ED 119, sheet 14

Reel 1125

Dauphin, Elk, Delaware

Dauphin County ED 119, sheet 15-end

Elk County

Delaware County EDs 1-12, sheet 6

Reel 1126


ED 12, sheet 7-end

Reel 1127


EDs 1-152, sheet 6

Reel 1128


ED 152, sheet 7-ED 172, sheet 10

Reel 1129

Erie, Fayette

Erie County ED 172, sheet 11-end

Fayette County EDs 1-41, sheet 26

Reel 1130


ED 41, sheet 27-end

Reel 1131

Forest and Franklin

Forest County EDs 1-101, sheet 4

Franklin County EDs 1-101, sheet 4

Reel 1132


ED 101, sheet 5-end

Reel 1133

Fulton and Greene


Reel 1134



Reel 1135



Reel 1136

Jefferson,  Juniata

Jefferson County EDs 1-132, sheet 16

Juniata County EDs 1-132, sheet 16

Reel 1137

Juniata, Lackawanna

Juniata County ED 132, sheet 17-end

Lackawanna County EDs 1-33, sheet 16

Reel 1138


ED 33, sheet 17-ED 57, sheet 15

Reel 1139


ED 57, sheet 16-end

Reel 1140


Excluding city of Lancaster

Reel 1141


Excluding city of Lancaster

Reel 1142

Lancaster (City)

Wards 1-6

Reel 1143

Lancaster (City)

Wards 6

Reel 1144

Lancaster, Lawrence

Excluding city of Lancaster

Lancaster County ED 176, sheet 15-end

Lawrence County EDs 1-226, sheet 4

Reel 1145

Lawrence, Lebanon

Lawrence County ED 226, sheet 5-end

Lebanon County EDs 1-135, sheet 2

Reel 1146

Lebanon, Lehigh

Lebanon County ED 135, sheet 3-end

Lehigh County EDs 1-189, sheet 4

Reel 1147


ED 189, sheet 5-ED 209, sheet 12

Reel 1148

Lehigh, Luzerne

Excluding city of Wilkes-Barre

Lehigh County ED 209, sheet 13-end

Luzerne County EDs 1-102, sheet 19

Reel 1149

Luzerne, Wilkes-Barre (City)

Luzerne County ED 102, sheet 20-ED 112, sheet 49

Includes city of Wilkes-Barre

Wards 1-12, and 15 ED 113, sheet 1-ED 123, sheet 44

Reel 1150

Luzerne, Wilkes-Barre (City)

Wards 13-14 ED 124, sheet 1-ED 127, sheet 37

Luzerne County ED 128, sheet 1-ED 146, sheet 8

Reel 1151


Excludes city of Wilkes-Barre

Luzerne County ED 146, sheet 9-end

Reel 1152


EDs 1-65, sheet 14

Reel 1153

Lycoming, McKean

Lycoming County ED 65, sheet 15-end

McKean County EDs 1-81, sheet 4

Reel 1154

McKean, Mifflin, Mercer

McKean County ED 81, sheet 5-end

Mifflin County ED 168, sheet 1-ED 168, sheet 2

Mercer County EDs 1-207, sheet 18

Reel 1155


ED 207, sheet 19-ED 227, sheet 37; ED East, sheet 1-ED East, sheet 34

Reel 1156

Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe

Mercer County ED East, sheet 35-ED East, sheet 46; ED 229, sheet 1-ED 236, sheet 13

Mifflin County ED 168, sheet 3-end

Monroe County EDs 1-215, sheet 12

Reel 1157

Monroe, Montgomery

Monroe County ED 215, sheet 13-end

Montgomery County EDs 1-10, sheet 18

Reel 1158


ED 10, sheet 19-ED 30, sheet 22

Reel 1159


ED 30, sheet 23-ED 52, sheet 14

Reel 1160

Montgomery, Montour, Northampton

Montgomery County ED 52, sheet 15-end

Montour County

Northampton County EDs 1-66, sheet 2

Reel 1161


ED 66, sheet 3-ED 77, sheet 39

Reel 1162


ED 78, sheet 1-ED 91, sheet 26

Reel 1163

Northampton, Northumberland

Northampton County ED 91, sheet 27-end

Northumberland County EDs 1-146, sheet 50

Reel 1164


ED 146, sheet 51-end

Reel 1165

Perry, Pike, and Potter

Perry County

Pike County

Potter County EDs 1-105, sheet 12

Reel 1166

Potter, City of Philadelphia

Potter County ED 105, sheet 13-end

Ward 1

EDs 1-20, sheet 10

Reel 1167

City of Philadelphia

Wards 1-2

ED 20, sheet 11-ED 44, sheet 8

Reel 1168

City of Philadelphia

Wards 2-3

ED 44, sheet 9-ED 69, sheet 28

Reel 1169

City of Philadelphia

Wards 4-6

ED 70, sheet 1-ED 107, sheet 4

Reel 1170

City of Philadelphia

Wards 6-7

ED 107, sheet 5-ED 135, sheet 10

Reel 1171

City of Philadelphia

Wards 7-9

ED 135, sheet 11-ED 164, sheet 16

Reel 1172

City of Philadelphia

Wards 9-11

ED 164, sheet 17-ED 196, sheet 27

Reel 1173

City of Philadelphia

Wards 12-13

ED 197, sheet 1-ED 224, sheet 12

Reel 1174

City of Philadelphia

Wards 13-15

D 224, sheet 13-ED 256, sheet 14

Reel 1175

City of Philadelphia

Ward 15

ED 256, sheet 15-ED 287, sheet 34

Reel 1176

City of Philadelphia

Wards 16-17

ED 288, sheet 1-ED 316, sheet 8

Reel 1177

City of Philadelphia

Wards 17-18

ED 316, sheet 9-ED 349, sheet 28

Reel 1178

City of Philadelphia

Ward 19

ED 350, sheet 1-ED 376, sheet 14

Reel 1179

City of Philadelphia


ED 376, sheet 15-ED 404, sheet 14

Reel 1180

City of Philadelphia

Wards 20-21

ED 404, sheet 15-ED 433, sheet 6

Reel 1181

City of Philadelphia

Wards 21-22

ED 433, sheet 7-ED 459, sheet 32

Reel 1182

City of Philadelphia

Wards 23-24

ED 460, sheet 1-ED 489, sheet 8

Reel 1183

City of Philadelphia

Ward 24

ED 489, sheet 9-ED 516, sheet 25

Reel 1184

City of Philadelphia

Wards 25

ED 517, sheet 1-ED 542, sheet 4

Reel 1185

City of Philadelphia

Wards 25-26

ED 542, sheet 5-ED 567, sheet 25

Reel 1186

City of Philadelphia

Wards 27-28

ED 568, sheet 1-ED 589, sheet 26

Reel 1187

City of Philadelphia

Ward 28

ED 590, sheet 1-ED 609, sheet 28

Reel 1188

City of Philadelphia

Wards 29

ED 610, sheet 1-ED 642, sheet 383

Reel 1189

City of Philadelphia

Wards 30-31

ED 643, sheet 1-ED 670, sheet 4

Reel 1190

City of Philadelphia, Schuylkill

Ward 31

ED 670, sheet 5-end

Schuylkill County EDs 1-176, sheet 62

Reel 1191


ED 176, sheet 63-ED 192, sheet 64

Reel 1192


ED 192, sheet 65-ED 215, sheet 32

Reel 1193


ED 215, sheet 33-ED 238, sheet 6

Reel 1194

Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset

Schuylkill County ED 238, sheet 7-end

Snyder County

Somerset County ED 1, sheet 6

Reel 1195

Somerset, Sullivan

Somerset County ED 1, sheet 7-end

Sullivan County

Reel 1196


EDs 1-136, sheet 6

Reel 1197

Susquehanna, Union, and Tioga

Susquehanna County ED 136, sheet 7-end

Union County

Tioga County EDs 1-148, sheet 14

Reel 1198


ED 148, sheet 15-end

Reel 1199



Reel 1200



Reel 1201


EDs 1-264, sheet 4

Reel 1202

Washington, Wayne

Washington County ED 264, sheet 5-end

Wayne County EDs 1-18, sheet 16

Reel 1203

Wayne, Westmoreland

Wayne County ED 18, sheet 17-end

Westmoreland County EDs 1-104, sheet 32

Reel 1204


ED 104, sheet 33-ED 121,


      sheet 6

Reel 1205

Westmoreland, Wyoming, York

Westmoreland County ED 121, sheet 7-end

York County EDs 1-4, sheet 34

Reel 1206


ED 4, sheet 35-ED 20, sheet 15

Reel 1207


ED 20, sheet 16-ED 38, sheet 30

Reel 1208


ED 38, sheet 31-end