Rhode Island, State Census, 1885 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: Rhode Island State Census, 1885 .


Record Description

The collection consists of an index and images of census population schedules of the population of the state of Rhode as June 1, 1885. 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 census reflects the population of the state as of June 1, 1885

For a list of records by counties currently published in this collection, select the Browse.

Additional Information About These Records

Rhode Island took state censuses in the following years:

  • 1865
  • 1875
  • 1885
  • 1905
  • 1915
  • 1925

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.

Record Content

The census includes the following information:

  • Ward, city and county of enumeration
  • Name of every person who residing in 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

How to Use the Record

To begin your search it is helpful to know the full name of your ancestor and some other identifying information such as their residence and age.

Search the Collection

To search the collection by name fill in the requested information in the boxes on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals 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 look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination.

As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor’s given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence and age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

To search the collection image by image
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "County"
⇒Select the appropriate "Locality" which takes you to the images.

Search the collection by image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.

Using the Information

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.
  • 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.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Remember these records do not have an arrangement by household within each locality. *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”) or military service records. If they are subject to military service they may have military files in the State or National Archives.
  • 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.
  • Birth places can tell you former residences and can help to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • 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.
  • The census may identify persons for whom other records do not exist.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • 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)

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Don't overlook FHL Place United States, Rhode Island items or FHL Keyword Rhode Island items in the FamilySearch Library Catalog. For other libraries (local and national) or to gain access to items of interest, see Rhode Island Archives and Libraries.

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Contributions to This Article

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Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"Rhode Island, State Census, 1885." Index and Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Census Board. State Archives, Providence.


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  • This page was last modified on 2 September 2014, at 17:22.
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