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Census Records: Minnesota Territorial & State Census

Federal, state, and other census records

About the Minnesota Territorial & State Census

Since 1820 people living in what is now Minnesota have been enumerated in various state and territorial censuses:  

  • Some Minnesota inhabitants were included in the 1820 territorial census of Michigan and the 1836 census of the Wisconsin Territory.  
  • The first Minnesota Territorial Census was taken in 1849, and was taken again in 1850, 1853, 1855, and 1857.
  • After statehood was granted in 1858, the Minnesota State Census was taken every 10 years, in years that ended with a 5: 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, and 1905. 
  • 1905 was the last year of the Minnesota State Census.

Accessing Minnesota State Census Schedules

The Minnesota Territorial and State Census records can now be searched and viewed online--for free!--through our PeopleFinder system.

To search these records:

  • Go to PeopleFinder
  • Enter a name in the center search box and click Search
  • In the left-hand navigation column, under Narrow By Collection, select State Census Index
  • You are now seeing all the State and Territorial records that match your search
  • To narrow your results, use the filters and categories in the column on the left side of your screen.  You can Narrow your search by:
    • Year: for a particular year's records
    • Year Range: for multiple years' records
    • Place: limit to a specific county
    • Family Name: for a single spelling of a last name
    • Soundex (within Narrow by Family Name): for multiple spellings of similar-sounding last names
    • Given Name: for an individual's first name
  • Once you find a result that looks promising, click on the name in your results list to see the full census record

For more hints on Searching MN State Census Records, visit the State Census FAQs.   

Onsite researchers can also access MN State and Territorial Census Records for free through the Library's Ancestry.com subscription.  Visit the Minnesota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905 search page in Ancestry.com to get started.  

What Questions Were Asked?

The information gathered by the MN Census varied from year to year, but starting with the final Territorial Census in 1857, the questions provided more than just a count of household members by gender.  The following is a list of the data collected in each year, using the language from the original forms.

1857:

  • Name of every person who resided in this family on the 21st day of September, 1857
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Place of Birth (usually just state or country)
  • Voters--Native or Naturalized
  • Occupation

1865:

  • The Name of every person whose usual place of abode on the first day of June, 1865 was in this family
  • Male
  • Female
  • Colored (black or mulatto)
  • Deaf
  • Dumb
  • Blind 
  • Insane
  • Soliders and officers in actual service of US June 1, 1865

1875:

  • Name of every person whose residence was in this family on the 1st of May, 1875
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Nativity, state or country
  • Parent Nativity:
    • Father
    • Mother
  • Condition

1885:

  • Name of every person whose residence was in this family on the 1st of May, 1885
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Place of birth (state or territory if US, country if foreign-born)
  • Parentage:
    • Father of foreign birth
    • Mother of foreign birth
  • Condition: whether deaf, dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic
  • Served as a soldier in Federal army during rebellion

1895:

  • Name of each person whose residence was in this family on the 1st of June, 1895 
  • Age at last birthday
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Place of birth (state or territory of US, or the country if foreign born)
  • If a Male over 21
    • How long a resident of this state (years and months)
    • How long a resident of this enumeration district (years and months)
  • Regular occupation
  • Amount of time employed at regular occupation
  • Solider or Sailor in War of the Rebellion
  • Parentage:
    • Father of foreign birth
    • Mother of foreign birth
  • Previously enumerated

1905:

  • Name of each person whose place of abode on June 1, 1905 was in this family
  • Street or Avenue, or number Rural Free Delivery
  • Sex 
  • Age
  • Color
  • Nativity
    • Place of birth of this person
    • Place of birth of Father of this person
    • Place of birth of Mother of this person
  • Period of Residence
    • How long a resident of this State (years and months)
    • How long a resident of this enumeration district (years and months)
  • Regular occupation
  • Army Service: solider or sailor
  • Wars: Civil or Spanish

Minnesota Territorial Census Facts by Year

Minnesota inhabitants were first included on the 1820 Michigan Territory Census and the 1836 Wisconsin Territory Census.

A separate census of the Minnesota Territory was ordered in 1849.  For each household, it included the name of head of household and number of males and females.

William V. B. Moore and family, approx. 1855

1849
The 1849 census included the former Wisconsin Territories of St. Croix and La Pointe, as well as the rest of the new territory which had not yet been organized into counties. 

1850
By 1850, the new territory had been organized into the counties of Benton, Dakota, Itasca, Mankatah, Pembina, Ramsey, Wabashaw, Wahnahta, and Washington.

1853

Most 1853 schedules are only head of household, number of children, and total number in household, but a few include names of all household members.  These records are very incomplete and searchable databases contain information for only two counties:

  • Dakota
  • Washington


1855
Largely lost. The published schedule for Wright County has survived, as have manuscript copies for Chisago, Doty, and Superior Counties.
 

1857
The 1857 MN Territorial Census was mandated for statehood qualification and apparently included fictitious names in seven counties to boost the population.  The following counties are included for this year: 
Anoka, Benton, Blue Earth, Brown, Buchanan, Carlton, Carver, Cass, Chisago, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Isanti, Itasca, Jackson, Lake, Le Sueur, Mahnomen, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Pembina, Pierce, Pine, Pipestone, Ramsey, Renville, Rice, Rock, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, St. Louis, Stearns, Steele, Todd, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington, Winona, and Wright.

Useful Terms

Soundex - A system for indexing names by the way they are pronounced, rather than the way they are spelled.  By using Soundex, you could do one search to find all the people with the similar-sounding names like Peterson, Petersen, Petersohn, Pieterson, etc.

Minnesota State Census Links

Gale Family Library and MNHS Reference Staff

Gale Family Library 
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