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URBS 103: Industrial Metropolis Course Guide: Deciphering Census Manuscripts

Census Resources

Finding Census Schedules from an Address

Note: Some Ancestry functionality is currently limited for off-campus users. Browsing Census schedules by enumeration district is currently available on-campus only. 
For 1940 Census schedules only, see also http://1940census.archives.gov/,  an open access project of the National Archives

Ancestry.com is a useful tool for accessing census schedules.  Unfortunately for researchers of cities, it was designed primarily for genealogists, and therefore is much easier to search by name of resident rather than location of residence. In order to research your neighborhood of interest:

  • Find a range of addresses and intersections representative of your neighborhood of interest (use Google Maps, Philadelphia Geohistory Network Map Viewer, etc.). You may want to use the Philadelphia Historic Street Index to make sure that the street hasn't changed names over the decades.
  • Go to Ancestry Library Edition
  • Navigate to US Census Records at the bottom of the page, then year of choice.
  • Navigate to Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County, and note how the city is divided up (wards, enumeration districts, etc.).
  • For 1880-1940, use Unified Census ED Finder to find correct enumeration district by street intersection. Make sure to select the year of interest at the top. For 1880, you can also use An urban finding aid for the 1880 federal population census of Philadelphia
  • In the Unified Census ED Finder, enter cross streets for your neighborhood of interest (the house number feature doesn't work so well), then click on "More Details."
  • Go back to Ancestry and find the ward and enumeration district of interest.  You may have to flip through many pages to find your location of interest.