You may already be familiar with the Kansas State Censuses. But you may not know about the unique treasures hidden inside.
Many states conducted their own censuses independent of the ubiquitous US Censuses. Most were done in the fifth year of the decade in contrast to the “00” years of each decade which signal the US Censuses. Further, the occurrence and frequency varies widely among states. Pennsylvania didn’t conduct “fifth year” censuses, they did septennial (7-year censuses but only in the Colonial era) censuses. Ohio didn’t do any state censuses, much to the frustration of genealogists.
The Kansas State Censuses
Oh, but Kansas did! Did they ever! Kansas may hold the record for most state censuses. You will find Kansas State Censuses in 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, and 1925. This affords genealogists with a bounty of data to associate families together between US Censuses discover migration trails, determine possible dates of settlement to look for land records, help cross the census gulf left by the missing 1890 US Census and so much more.
What You’ll Find
The state censuses typically don’t go into the double-page-spread type detail per family that the US Censuses do. Presumably because there wasn’t a need for more data and naturally the states would have fewer resources to conduct a more extensive interview with each homeowner.
But you will find families – head of household, family members – occupations, ages, birth locations. All great stuff. For a census by census summary of what is in each Kansas Census, visit the Kansas State Historical Society’s website here.
The Hidden Treasures
But here are the absolute golden nuggets you’ll find in the Kansas State Censuses that you may not find – I certainly haven’t – in other state censuses.
Okay, what just happened in 1865? The Civil War. The 1865 Kansas Census lists residents military record (company and regiment). If your ancestor was an early migrant to the Kansas Territory, look for him in the 1865 Census. It may very well point you back to his military service in the Civil War. Bet you didn’t expect to find that in a state census?
1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925
As for the rest of the Kansas State Censuses, there is a winner of a piece of information that, again, I think, is unique to Kansas and often overlooked. These censuses not only ask place of birth, but where from to Kansas? The census wanted to know what state or country your ancestor migrated from to Kansas, in other words where were they most recently. wow. If you can’t find from whence your ancestor came, this could truly be the key that unlocks that mystery.
Sure, you may know your ancestor was from Germany, but what if he didn’t make a beeline to Kansas from his home town in Germany? I would suspect most didn’t. Marsha Hoffman Rising says many migrated West very, very slowly by today’s standards taking up to 10 years, living in multiple states, and thwarting even the best efforts of genealogists to find them. And there are a lot of states between the East Coast and Kansas, which makes just guessing virtually impossible.
But now you don’t have to guess.
John Dold – 1895 Sedgwick County Kansas
Here’s a perfect example. Let’s look at John F. Dold. We find him in the 1895 Sedgwick County (Wichita) Kansas Census with his wife, Magdelina, and their children. Nothing special here. They are from Germany, like many, many early Kansans.
But if we look further, the Kansas Census asks where they most immediately migrated from (“where from to Kansas?”) MINNESOTA! Huge. Without this I would have never known to look to Minnesota for his migration trail. Wouldn’t you love to know “where from to Kansas?” for your ancestor?
Where to find these records
Fortunately for us the entire series of Kansas Censuses are available on Ancestry.com. (Apparently, it is free to Kansans, who can show a valid state drivers license! more info here. )The record group is called the Kansas State Census Collection 1855-1925. (The 1855 Census is for the Territory.) The secret to finding this information on “where from to Kansas” lies in once finding the regular census record, going to the next page, It is a double-page spread document but scanned as single pages. If you don’t know the second page is there you’ll never know to look for this and will miss out on the wonderful “where to from Kansas?” information.
So, go forth and stake your ancestral claim (to state census records) in Kansas! You’re bound to strike genealogy gold in these wonderful records.