Source Information

Ancestry.com. Nebraska, State Census Collection, 1860-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors in partnership with the following organizations:
Original data:
  • Nebraska. Cass County. “County Census, 1876-1882.” Microfilm RG220, 9 rolls. Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln.
  • Nebraska. Lancaster County. “County Census, 1860-1880.” Microfilm RG207, 4 rolls. Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln.
  • Schedules of the Nebraska State Census of 1885. NARA Microfilm Publication M352, 56 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. n.d.

About Nebraska, State Census Collection, 1860-1885

A few Nebraska counties were recorded in censuses in the late 1800s. In 1885 a statewide census was taken, encouraged by the federal government. This database contains information from some of these censuses. Below is a list of the years and counties covered in this data collection.

As you can see, most of the earlier censuses only cover Cass and Lancaster counties. Lancaster County was created in 1859 and is the county in which Lincoln, the capital of the state, is situated. Cass County was formed in 1854 and sits between Lancaster County and the Missouri River.

  • 1860: Lancaster
  • 1865: Lancaster
  • 1870: Cass, Lancaster
  • 1874: Lancaster
  • 1875: Lancaster
  • 1876: Cass
  • 1877: Cass, Lancaster
  • 1878: Cass, Lancaster, Saunders
  • 1879: Cass, Lancaster
  • 1880: Cass, Lancaster
  • 1881: Cass
  • 1882: Cass
  • 1883: Cass
  • 1884: Cass
  • 1885: All counties that existed at the time, except for Blaine County*

*Blaine County was created in 1885 and may have been formed after the census was taken.

The amount of information recorded about an individual will vary according to census year. However, the type of information that may be found in this database includes:

  • Name
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Birthplace
  • Location (town, county, state)
  • Enumeration district number
  • Date the census was taken
  • Census page number

Additional information may be found on the actual census and can be obtained by viewing the image of the original document.

Microfilmed copies of the 1885 census are held at the Nebraska State Historical Society as well as the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Microfilmed copies of the other census years for Cass and Lancaster counties can also be found at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

The 1890 U.S. Federal Census was damaged and destroyed by fire in 1921. Less than 1 percent of the schedules are available for research today. Because of this problem, the 1885 Nebraska State Census has become a highly valuable source as it provides a wealth of information that would otherwise be found in the Federal Census.

About State Censuses:

An act of 3 March 1879 provided that any state could take an interdecennial census with partial reimbursement by the federal government. Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and the territories of Dakota and New Mexico returned schedules to the secretary of the interior. The 1885 census is useful for locating data about individuals who were living on rapidly growing frontiers: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Florida, and North and South Dakota.

Taken from "Research in Census Records," The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, by Loretto Dennis Szucs. Ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).

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