Massachusetts State Census, 1855 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Massachusetts State Census, 1855 .
This article describes a collection of records at
Massachusetts, United States
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Location of Massachusetts
Record Description
Record Type State Census
Collection years 1855
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of an index and images of population schedules listing inhabitants of the State of Massachusetts in 1855. Suffolk County is currently missing 155 images which will be added later. This project was indexed in partnership with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).

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

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Massachusetts State Census, 1855.

Collection Content

Sample Image

The census includes:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Occupation
  • Birthplace

How Do I Search the Collection?

To begin your search it is helpful to know:

  • Name of your ancestor
  • Identifying information such as age and birthplace

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about those in the list to what you already know about your own ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person.

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate "County"
⇒Select the appropriate "Town, Ward" which takes you to the images

Search the collection by image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. Be aware that with either search you may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination. 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.

  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line video at FamilySearch Search Tips.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

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

  • Birth places can tell you former residences and can help to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • 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.
  • The census may identify persons for whom other records do not exist.

General Information About These Records

In 1855, the legislature directed that a census be taken on June 1 of that year and every 10 years thereafter. The census schedules were delivered to the State Secretary and eventually sent to the State Archives for safe keeping. The census schedules are well preserved at the Massachusetts State Archives and they have been microfilmed.

The state censuses of Massachusetts were taken in order to enumerate the population for representation purposes. Censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator. Information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or by a neighbor.

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

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"Massachusetts State Census, 1855." Database with images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016. Citing Secretary of the Commonwealth. State Archives, Boston.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Massachusetts State Census, 1855.

Image Citation:

The image citation is available by clicking 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 Massachusetts State Census, 1855.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.