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Census records are the framework of your family history puzzle. The federal census is taken every ten years in the years ending with zero. Several publications provide in-depth information about the assortment of data found in each federal census.
The first Missouri federal census was taken in 1830, the first federal census year after statehood. These records are available at local libraries or online.
As in any large city, census records can be confusing. St. Louis County Library Special Collections has a census finding aid explaining the wards and townships in St. Louis City and County. If you want to search a particular part of the area, this finding aid will be beneficial. St. Louis County Library Finding Aids.
Some state, county, territory, and local census records are available. Missouri took a state census in a variety of years. Check your counties of interest as some, but not all, Missouri state censuses are extant.
The early French and Spanish residents also took territorial census records. Some tax records were gathered to simulate a pre-statehood census. Genealogists Robert Parkin compiled a reconstructed 1776 St. Louis census, which is available on this website.
The Spanish took the first census of St. Louis in 1772 showing thirty-three white men and women and eighteen slaves. There were seventeen males, seven were under fourteen, nine were between fourteen and fifty, and one over fifty. Of the sixteen females, eight were under fourteen, seven between fourteen and fifty, and one over fifty.
The second Spanish census was a detailed statistical report of products of St. Louis in 1773, but it also names traders and their bateaus (boats) as well as heads of farm families who produced the province’s grain. The population in the entire Spanish territory had increased to 1,299 of which St. Louis then had 399 whites and 198 slaves.
The third statistical report follows the same form and provides additional names of emigrants to St. Louis. The report for 1775 also is much the same. The 1776 report no longer exists.
The next statistical census of St. Louis was taken in the 1790s. However, there are substantiating records such as the Catholic Church register, militia rolls of 1780, and Spanish Archives, including Livres Terrien (land books) and civil marriage contracts. All of these records were used in compiling the file of original settlers as well as the 1776 census of St. Louis.
St. Louis has valuable agricultural census records. The 1850 records show the numbers of improved and unimproved acres plus the value of farms and equipment. That census also has the value of livestock, horses, mules, milch cows, working oxen, etc.
The census also provides the total amount of produce in the year ending 1 June 1850. It lists the number of bushels of wheat, rye, corn, and oats. It lists the total pounds of tobacco and the gallons of wine produced.
Subsequent agricultural census reports provide similar information about the farms. By using the agricultural census, you can define the crops produced and animals raised by your ancestor. By using the available census reports combined with other lists from various eras, genealogists can usually pinpoint their ancestors.
Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Books, 2002.
Lainhart, Ann S. State Census Records. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992.
Thorndale, William, and William Dollarhide. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790–1920. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992.
St. Louis Genealogical Society · #4 Sunnen Drive, Suite 140 · St. Louis, MO 63143 · 314-647-8547