Kentucky Census Records

To a genealogist, nothing is more important than records.  Records which give us a glimpse into the past.  Records which name the ancestors we are seeking.  Records which provide direct statements of relationship for those same ancestors.  Records which leave no doubt in your mind and mine, that the names on your pedigree charts are correct.

The records we depend on change.  Have you noticed?  The census began naming  heads of households only with all others in the household tabulated as numbers or slashes by column, in categories set by legislative act.  Then  every person  in the household  was named with ages and places of residence.  Particular categories requested by insurance companies and other special interest lobby groups were added, like “married within the year” or “died within the previous 12 months.”

Interesting census questions answered include:   Do you have indoor plumbing?  Do you own a radio?  What language do you speak?  And How many children were born to this mother?

Finally,  some families drew a long form questionnaire.  Most got the short form–because the data supplied would provide statistics only–and the population count was the most important element because the count was required by the United States Constitution.  The address bar was pre-coded to accept certain kinds of addresses only.

My local address, with East-West coordinates, did not fit.  And when it came to rural locations without street numbers and often without street names–what a mess!  Imagine the enumerator delivering the census form to the “first white barn on the left side of the gravel road just over the canal.”  Sounds like the directions on my son’s newspaper route.

States were given permission and even encouraged to take their own census enumerations during the interim years between federal censuses.  Kentucky was one of the states that took local censuses using the tax assessor and collectors to gather the data.  To save money, Kentucky took their census along with the federal enumeration–1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870. 

These incredible enumerations are found among the tax rolls in the county courthouse. They enumerate, by name, heads of household only.  They  identify households where sons or daughters were married within the year.  They list the agricultural produce and the livestock on each farm.  They identify mercantile and manufacturing households.  By 1860, the schedule is three pages across.

If you have Kentucky ancestry and you have not yet searched these local census records.  Run, do not walk (if you drive, don’t, however,  break the speed limit and get a ticket), to your nearest FamilySearch Center and order the county tax rolls  on microfilm.   When they arrive,  set every other task aside until you have read these wondrous records–Kentucky’s gift to your genealogy.

I have collected references to numerous other special censuses for different places and dates.  A future episode in our continuing saga of genealogy records and the evidence they contain will list these.  Perhaps, I can create a checklist to post onto my website so that you can download it to use as a guide.

If you have a local Kentucky census that you stumbled across in your research–would you share with the rest of us?  Then we can pick and choose those that apply to the time period where we are stumped or to the locality where we last found our difficult-to-find ancestors.

Remember that I do genealogy research every day–on a long list of surnames and in many different places.  I am always looking for lists of residents and when those lists include statements of gender, age, occupation, possessions, place of origin, other family members, I say, “Yes!”  I grab the data for my research projects and then look for others I can share the record with.  Just like many of you do.

And now that I have a media to share in and readers to share with, I am so glad.  Your favorite Kentucky genealogist, Arlene Eakle     htp://

About Arlene Eakle

I trace your family tree; or, teach you how.
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