Friday, January 27, 2012

Darned Missing Census Pages

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records are the Darnedest Things.”

Records Are the Darnedest Things: Darned Missing Census Pages is missing pages from the 1820 U.S. Census of Virginia and I bet I know why.

You can see (if you have a subscription) where one is missing by navigating to Virginia > Randolph > Beverly. Note that image 1 is page 265 and image 2 is page 267. Page 266 exists and contains names from B to G. But it is missing from The first few names are

Coffman, George
Cross, Joseph
Carpenter, Solomon

You can see another one in Virginia > Monongalia > Western Division. Jump to image 10, which is page 122. Go on to image 11 and you will see that it is page 124. Page 123 (aka page 51a) exists, but is missing from It contains names from G to H. Some of the missing names are

Glascock, Charles
Garlow, John
Gilbert, Stephen

There is a good reason—well, maybe a reason—the pages are missing. NARA missed the pages when it microfilmed the records! Maybe will go back and photograph the missing pages. Until then: darned missing census pages!

For more information, see “Missing 1820 Census Pages,” West Virginia Archives & History News [a publication of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History], December 2003, 1; online archive ( : accessed 10 January 2012).


  1. Where do those census records exist as originals? Where can they be viewed? I have people missing from the 1880 census from New York. Should I be lucky enough to find missing numbers in the pages where would I be able to find the originals to check?

  2. I just got off the phone with the National Archives, and an archivist who's been there for 35 years verified the following:

    1900-1930 All original censuses schedules were destroyed after being microfilmed. So there's no possibility of locating missing pages.

    1890 Lost in a fire, except for a few pages.

    1880 These originals were returned to the states (not sure exactly when; WI received theirs ca 1918 - apparently from the Census Bureau, since the Natl Archives wasn't created until 1934.) What each state did with their original 1880 schedules isn't known by the Natl Archives. So check with the state archives/library of your state of interest to see whether they have them. (For missing WI 1880 pages, contact the WI Historical Society Archives; email

    1790-1870 THE ORIGINALS ARE STILL IN THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES, so check with them about a page missing from the microfilm during those years. Go to and scroll down to the "I have a question.." segment.

    For the 1850, 1860 & 1870 Censuses, three copies were made: 1 for the county, 1 for the state, and 1 for the Census Bureau. Some state and county copies may still exist (e.g. WI has a duplicate set of schedules for 1850-1870), so check to see if your state or county also does.
    Note: Only one of those 3 copies was the "original" - the others were transcripts, so may differ. Unfortunately, there was no consistency about which copy was sent where, so it's usually impossible to tell which copy is the original, even when they are compared side-by-side.

    My bugaboo with missing pages is the inmates of the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton in 1930. The first two pages of staff are on the microfilm, but the apparent following pages of inmates/patients/students are not; no doubt for medical privacy reasons. (Of course, my person was a patient.) But what a loss! They should have saved those pages for release after 75-100 years...which would probably be too late for me to still be around, but not for the next generation of family researchers.

    Hope this helps! Dee G, Madison WI


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