Story County, Iowa 1856 Census
Search Story Co. 1856 Census Records
The census has been abstracted mostly from microfilm. (I did acquire from the Iowa Archives fairly good photocopies of the non-standard pages comprising Washington Township. Those pages are almost unreadable on microfilm.) This is the first all-person census available for Story County. It occurs at a time that settlement was rapidly increasing. Unique to this census is how many years a person lived in Iowa. Quality of the data varies. Errors may have been introduced by the census taker or by my transcription. Some family names were recorded incorrectly. Especially inventive are the name spellings for the Norwegian settlers in Lafayette Township. According to a book on Iowa censuses published in 1883, the 1856 Story County census recorded 2,868 individuals. I have identified 2,854. Most of the missing 14 individuals are probably found in Washington township, for which the surviving census data is in poor condition.
The following fields are included in this abstract:
- Page Number. The pages for two townships, Nevada and Franklin, were bound and numbered out of order. These pages have been placed in the correct order, which means as you page forward and backward in these townships, the page numbers will sometimes appear out of order. However the families are in the correct order and not split apart as happens in some instances in the actual census book. Washington Township was not recorded on standard forms, but rather on separate sheets of paper which are in poor condition. I have transcribed these from photocopies obtained from the Iowa State Archives. These copies are in much better condition than the microfilmed sheets. There are ten of these sheets which I have numbered S 1 to S 10.
- Dwelling Number. The placement of new dwelling numbers in Lafayette Township seemed arbitrary.
- Family Number. The Washington Township pages had no family number. The placement of new family numbers in Lafayette Township seemed arbitrary.
- Name. I have separated the surname from the given names so the surname can be used for searching.
- Age. Some of the census takers left this field blank when the child was under a year old while others recorded a zero.
- Color. This field was never filled in. The entire population in 1856 was white.
- Married. When married, this field contained a number one. I have converted this to the letter "M" in these records under the heading "M/W."
- Widowed. When widowed, this field contained a number one. I have converted this to the letter "W" in these records under the heading "M/W."
- Years resident in the state. Some of the census takers appear to have left this field blank when the person resided in Iowa under one year while others recorded a zero.
- Where born
- Profession, trade or occupation. The most interesting to me were "Prairie breaker" and "The great hunter."
- Native voters. This field contained a number one for native voters. I have converted this to "Native."
- Naturalized voters. This field contained a number one for naturalized voters. I have converted this to "Naturalized."
- Aliens. This field contained a number one for aliens. I have converted this to "Alien."
- Militia. This field contained a number one for those in the militia. I have converted this to "Militia."
- Deaf and Dumb. This field contained a number one for the deaf and dumb. I have converted this to "Deaf & Dumb." Only two instances were found.
- Blind. This field should contain a number one for the blind. No instances were found for Story County.
- Insane. This field should contain a number one for the insane. No instances were found for Story County.
- Idiotic. This field contained a number one for the idiotic. I have converted this to "Idiotic." Only one instance was found, however this column was sometimes obscured and others may have been missed.
- Owner of land. This field contained a number one for those who owned land. I have converted this to "Land Owner" when found. This column was often obscured, so many land owners will not be recognized. It appears that most head of households owned land if they had been in Story County for any amount of time. Newcomers may not yet have acquired land.
The 1856 census also captured a lot of agricultural and manufacturing data. I have not attempted to transcribe any of this. It would be a great challenge to attempt to match this data, found on the right hand sheet, with the basic data found on the left hand sheet. This would be especially difficult for Nevada and Franklin townships for which the pages are badly scrambled. For those interested, statistical summaries of this data for Story County survive in books published by the State of Iowa.
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