Rhode Island, State Census, 1885 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Rhode Island State Census, 1885 .
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Rhode Island, United States
Rhode Island flag.png
Flag of Rhode Island
US Locator Rhode Island.png
Location of Rhode Island
Record Description
Record Type State Census
Collection years 1885
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites


What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of an index and images of census population schedules of the State of Rhode Island as of June 1, 1885. The State of Rhode Island conducted its own census every ten years on the half-decade year between 1865 and 1935.

The schedules consist of two pages per image with numbered lines. The records are arranged by:
1. Town/city
2. Gender, males are all grouped together first followed by females
3. Alphabetical order by the first letter of the surname within the gender.

They are not arranged by household. This census also enumerated each individual.

The information is generally reliable. However use the information with some caution, since the information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or by a neighbor. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.

To Browse this Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Rhode Island State Census, 1885.

Collection Content

Sample Image

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

The census was compiled to obtain a count of the population to determine how many representatives the state had for legislative purposes. Reliability of information in the census is determined by the accuracy of the knowledge of the informant. Informants could have been any member of the family or even a neighbor.

The census forms include the following questions:

  • District Number
  • Family Number
  • Number of people in the family
  • Name of every person who is residing in the family
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Gender, race, age and marital status of each individual
  • Place of birth
  • Parents' place of birth
  • Occupation
  • Whether or not in school
  • Whether literate or not
  • Voting information for males over 21
  • Whether an alien or naturalized
  • Any disabilities or physical limitations

The indexed records contain the following information:

  • Name
  • Event type, place and date
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Estimated birth year
  • District Number

Some indexed records may include:

  • Names of other people in the household

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • The full name of your ancestor
  • Other identifying information such as their residence and age

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select the appropriate "County"
⇒Select the appropriate "Locality" which takes you to the images.

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor in the census, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Print or download a copy of the record, or extract the genealogical information needed. Add this new information to your records of each family.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use the age listed to determine an approximate birth date. This date along with the place of birth can help you find a birth record. Birth records often list biographical and marital details about the parents and close relatives other than the immediate family.
  • Birth places can tell you former residences and can help to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • Use the race information to find records related to that ethnicity, such as records of the Freedman’s Bureau or Indian censuses.
  • Use the naturalization information to find their naturalization papers in the county court records. It can also help you locate immigration records such as a passenger list which would usually be kept records at the port of entry into the United States.
  • If they are subject to military service, they may have military files in the State or National Archives.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or school records; children’s occupations are often listed as “at school.”
  • It is often helpful to extract the information on all families with the same surname in the same general area. If the surname is uncommon, it is likely that those living in the same area were related.
  • Be sure to extract all families before you look at other records. The relationships given will help you to organize family groups. The family groupings will help you identify related families when you discover additional information in other records.
  • Married family members may have lived nearby but in a separate household so you may want to search an entire town, neighboring towns, or even a county.
  • You may be able to identify an earlier generation if elderly parents were living with or close by a married child.
  • You may be able to identify a younger generation if a young married couple still lived with one of their sets of parents.
  • Additional searches may be needed to locate all members of a particular family in the census.
  • You should also be aware that the census may identify persons for whom other records do not exist.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • Remember these records do not have an arrangement by household within each locality.
  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Be sure to search both the male section (listed first) and the female section.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals with the same family number.
  • There is also the possibility that a family was missed in the census.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records)

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation
"Rhode Island State Census, 1885." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. Citing Census Board. State Archives, Providence.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Rhode Island State Census, 1885.

Image Citation:

When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen. You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Rhode Island State Census, 1885.


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