Iowa State Census, 1885 (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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Collection Time Period
This census enumerated the population in 1885.
Iowa became a territory in 1838 and a state in 1846. The state of Iowa conducted statewide censuses in the following years; 1847, 1849, 1854, 1856, 1859, 1862, 1865, 1867, 1869, 1873, 1875, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, and 1925.
Some townships are missing in the 1885 census.
Why This Record Was Created
The census was compiled to obtain a count of the population of the state for representation purposes.
Reliability of information in the census is determined by the accuracy of the knowledge of the informant which could have been any member of the family or even a neighbor.
The census information was handwritten on pre-printed sheets.
The 1885 census contains the following biographical information:
- Name of every person who resided in the family
- Age at birthday in 1884
- Marital status
- Place of birth (if in Iowa, the county of birth, if not state or country)
- Parentage (if native or foreign) of father and mother • Whether subject to military duty
- Whether entitled to vote
- If an alien whether or not have taken out naturalization papers
- Whether literate or not
- Any disabilities
How to Use This Record
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the census index. Use the locator information in the index (such as page number or family number) to locate your ancestors in the census. Compare the information in the census 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 of more than one family or person to make this determination. Be aware that as with any index, transcription errors may occur.
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. For example:
- 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 employment records or other types of records such as 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.
Some other helpful tips to keep in mind are:
- 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 an 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.
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Sources of This Information
“Iowa State Census, 1885,” database, FamilySearch, 2010; from State Historical Society of Iowa. “Iowa State Census Records.” State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines. FHL microfilm, 95 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
IOWA STATE HISTORICAL DEPARTMENT. DIVISION OF THE STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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