1885 Minnesota Census Information

The 1885 Minnesota Census is a very important resource for genealogical information due to the loss of the 1890 Federal Census. It is relatively easy to find people in this census who resided in the rural areas of the state since the population density in rural areas was low. In the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas, the population was large. Without an index or searchable database, it is very difficult to locate people in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas. Thus, the 1885 census is largely unused for the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas. KinSource's database helps to solve that problem.

Every reasonable effort has been made to transcribe these records correctly. However, there may be incorrect transcriptions, or names that are misspelled in the transcriptions. Hopefully, any errors are minimal and this database will be a useful aid in finding people in this census.


The 1885 Minnesota Census was taken during the months of May and June in 1885. The census taker was supposed to list every person who resided in the household on May 1, 1885. Each census entry contains the following information about a person:

Items marked with an asterisk (*) are included in all records in this census index.
Items marked with a double asterisk (**) are included in some records in this census index.


The following is a transcription of the exact instructions as printed on the census forms:

An examination of the law will inform assessors and their assistants of their duties and compensation. The following explanations indicate the correct use of the blanks furnished.

Families numbered.--In the column under this heading write the figure (1) opposite the name of the head of the first family visited; the figure (2) opposite the name of the head of the next family, and so on, numbering in this column only the heads of families. By a "family" is meant a number of persons, whether one or many, living together and subsisting at a common table, or from one common supply. A widow living alone and separately providing for herself, or two hundred individuals living together and provided for by a common head, should each be numbered as one family. The resident inmates of a hotel, jail, hospital, or other similar institution, should be recorded as one family, unless there be several tenements or distinct families, in which case they should be separated.

In the next column of "names of every person,"&c;, insert the name of every person in each family, of every age, including the names of those temporarily absent on a journey, visit, or for the purposes of education, as well as those that were home on the first day of May. The name of any member of the family who may have died after that date, is to be entered, and the person described as if living, but the name of any person born after the first day of May is to be omitted. The names are to be written beginning with the father and mother, or, if either or both be dead, begin with some other ostensible head of the family, to be followed, as far as practicable, with the name of the oldest child residing at home, then the next oldest, and so on, to the youngest; then the other inmates, lodgers, and boarders, laborers, domestics, and servants.

All landlords, jailors, superintendents of poor-houses, hospitals, asylums and other similar institutions, are to be considered as heads of their respective families, and the inmates under their care to be registered as members thereof, and the details concerning each, designated in their proper columns so distinctly as to preclude any doubt as to who form the family proper and who be guests, prisoners and other inmates, carefully omitting all transient persons.

Age.--In this column indicate by figures of age of each person on his last birthday not occuring after May 1st. Designate the age of children not yet one year old by a cypher (0). If in any case the age cannot be ascertained, enter a dash (--).

Sex.--Designate each male by a capital M, each female by a capital F, in the proper column.

Color.--In case of whites, write W; for full blood negroes, B; for mullatoes, mixed with negroes, M; for full blood Indian, I; for half-breeds, mixed white and Indian, H.

Nativity.--Give here the State of the Union, or the foreign country, in which each enumerated person was born. The value of the information here sought, like all statistics, depends upon its accuracy. Use particular designations in preference to general ones. Say that a man is a native of England, Ireland or Scotland, rather than of Great Britain; of Denmark, Norway or Sweden, rather than of Scandinavia. For the names of any of the United States, the customary abbreviations may be used.

Parent nativity.--In the two columns under this heading, if either of the parents or both are of foreign birth, enter in the proper column the figure (1).

Condition.--This column is to record the deaf, dumb, deaf and dumb, blind, insane and idiotic. "Deaf," "dumb," and "blind," may be written in full when required by the fact; "D, and D." may stand for deaf and dumb; "In." for insane, and "Id." for idiotic.

In the last column enter persons who have served as soldiers during the war of the rebellion by the figure (1).

The recapitulation at the bottom of each page is for the use of the Secretary of State's office, and must not be filled.

You will be expected to complete the enumeration without delay, and return the schedules to the county auditor immediately upon completing them. You should report progress to him as often as once in two weeks, in order that he may know that you are not disabled for duty; and of by sickness or any accident you are likely to be seriously delayed in your work, you should at once notify the county auditor of the fact.

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