Introduction to the Online Census Database
Welcome to the state of Nevada’s Online Census database. The Nevada State Legislature and the Historic Preservation Office funded this remarkable tool, which should be useful to researchers, genealogists, or anyone interested in the history of the American West. With this support, Dr. Ken Fliess, affiliated with the Anthropology Department of the University of Nevada, Reno, employed students to enter data from the federal manuscript censuses of 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920.
The U. S. Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a census every ten years. The federal manuscript census documents are the hand-written pages that census enumerators used to record information on every person in the United States. Every census employs different questions, but certain inquiries remain the same. Because the 1890 census burned in a warehouse fire in 1921, it is unavailable. The project also did not digitize data from the Nevada 1861-1862 territorial census or the 1875 state census because they are unreliable and they ask too few questions to justify the expense.
Nevada is the first state to offer all of its federal manuscript census data online. Simple electronic indexes of names exist for some states, but the Nevada database is more comprehensive and allows for all sorts of research. Genealogists will immediately recognize the power of being able to request information on everyone bearing a certain last name. By browsing in the neighborhood of a specific entry, genealogists may learn of in-laws, of household servants, or of other aspects of a family’s living conditions. Those interested in understanding the past more generally will discover that it is possible to find information on diverse categories of people. For example, using this database one can identify all the widowed women supported by laundry work in Nevada in 1880. There are thousands of other possibilities.
Encoding data on 310,000 entries represented a Herculean task. During the course of the project Dr. Fliess did a preliminary edit of the 19th century material. Much editing remains to be done, especially of the 20th century records. People using this database are encouraged to inform the Webmaster of errors. This information will improve the data for everyone.