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Census Research Guide

How to find census information at the Cal Poly Humboldt Library Documents Collection and on the internet. Includes information about census schedules including Indian census information.

Census Schedules


Census Schedules are the handwritten information sheets recorded by Census takers for every population census since 1790. The schedules were usually large or ledger-sized pages. The information was recorded in the order in which the Census taker visited homes. In the 1940s, the schedules were microfilmed and the originals destroyed.

Census Schedules include the names of individuals and a varying amount of detail about their social and economic conditions. Genealogists often use the them for their initial research. Information from any given census is released 72 years after the date it was taken in order to protect the privacy of individuals. The latest Census schedules currently available are from the 1930 Census.

Information on the Census Schedules varies with the year the Census was taken. For example, literacy was first asked in 1830 and place of birth in 1850. Sample questionnaires appear in Population and Housing Inquiries in U.S. Decennial Censuses, 1790-1970 (Docs C3.214:39).

A complete digital set of the scanned microfilmed Census Schedules from 1790 to 1930 is available from the Internet Archive. The 1940 Census became freely available online on April 2, 2012, at the National Archives. The 1950 census was released digitally on April 1, 2022.


Census - California Indians

  • For discussion of the various censuses of California Indians, see Cook, The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1970 (E78.C15 C698 1976) and chapters on Treaties and Litigation and its effects from the California volume of the Handbook of North American Indians (E76.2 .H36).
  • California special Indian census 1910: National Archives film M595, roll 12 / edited and indexed by Larry S. Watson. (HumCo E78 C15 W38 1993, another copy on the 2nd floor.)
  • Census of non-reservation California Indians, 1905-1906 / C.E. Kelsey (HumCo E78 C15 K45) Full text is online through Berkeley Library Digital Collections. For explanation and analysis of the Kelsey Census, see Larisa K. Hoover, Counting Context: C.E. Kelsey's 1906 Census of Nonreservation Indians in Northern California. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 38:2 (2014), pp. 41-66. https://doi.org/10.17953/aicr.38.2.l62h2r5280246383
  • Copy of role approved in 1933, listing the Indians of California qualified under sec. 1 of the act of May, 18, 1928. (HumCo E78.C15 C6982 1933 – by appointment) This is the 1928 “Great Roll.” See also the complete microfilm of this census on microfilm, MF2663,and MF2664, M1853.
  • Indian agency census: population, Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation 1887-1899 / Office of Indian Affairs, 13 annual folders. (HumCo E99.H8 I53 1887)

Holdings at HSU Library

Microfilm for the State of California, 1850-1920, and for Northwestern California, 1930, is located on the second floor under the call number MF 245. The original 1890 Census was destroyed in a Washington, D.C. fire and is unavailable anywhere in the nation. See also:

  • Humboldt County, California 1860 census schedule 1: a transcription with notes by Ann Hunt (HumCo HA 267 H8 1860 H86 2008)
  • Original census returns of Humboldt County for the year A.D. 1860, by William C. Espie (HumCo HA 267 H8 1860 E78 1986 - oversize)
  • US Gen Web transcription of 1860 census for Humboldt County
  • California census of 1852 (microfilm MF2532, Klamath County on reel 1 and Trinity County on reel 3)
  • 1852 census [of California: Trinity County], taken by William C. Estes, transcribed by Rita Hanover, ca 1980? (HumCo HA 267 T6 1852 E78)
  • Index to the 1850 Census of the State of California, compiled by Alan P. Bowman (HumCo HA 267 H8 1850 Index)

Content Attribution

The content of this page was created by Joan Berman, Special Collections Librarian Emerita. Updated information was added on 08/22/2023.