Historic Oregon Censuses
The State Archives has census records from the provisional, territorial, state and federal governments. It also has Bureau of Indian Affairs census records available for research in the Reference Room.
The first census in the Oregon Country was taken by Elijah White, Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs, in 1842. In 1845 the Provisional Government authorized a second census. In 1848 the Oregon Territory was established and the governor was given authority to take "an enumeration of the inhabitants and qualified voters of the several counties and districts of the territory." The territorial census rolls and abstracts were used to document county population and to report statistics to the government. These census tallied statistics for apportionment, school-age children and military strength.
The federal census (population schedules), taken every ten years, has expanded the amount of information gathered over the decades. For example, the 1850 census included very basic questions such as:
- Name, age, sex and color of every person in the household.
- Occupation of each person over age 15.
- Value of real estate owned.
- Place of birth of each person.
- Was the person married within the year.
- Did the person attend school within the year.
- Can the person read and write. (only if over age 20).
- Is the person deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, a pauper or convict.
By the 1940 census, the information had grown to include 50 columns of questions. An abbreviated list of these includes:
- Living location.
- Household information.
- Name of each person.
- Personal description (sex, color, age and marital status).
- Residence in 1935.
- Mother's and father's birthplace.
- Mother tongue.
- Military service.
- Social Security status.
The federal government also took special (nonpopulation) schedules on agriculture, industry, mortality and social statistics for administrative purposes. The 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 mortality schedules contain information on persons who died during the twelve months prior to the date the census was taken. Some of the entries give the cause of death. The agricultural schedules for these years also include names of individuals. The other special schedules include only statistical data and not the names of individuals.
Finding Census Records