Official census enumeration dates: the law and Minnesota

It’s important to check the official date of each census year. If the official date of the census was to be 1 June, then a person that died on May 15 should not be included. Nor should a child born on 5 June. Seasoned researchers know that no matter the laws, guidelines, rules, or whatever for any record, there are often non-compliant entries.

Researchers with Minnesota families are fortunate in that once it became a state, several state enumerations were put into place by the state legislature. (There are earlier territorial level censuses.) These are wonderful for filling in the time period between the federal censuses and help to fill the void of most of the 1890 federal census. The official dates of the Minnesota state censuses were:

  • 1865: 1 June
  • 1875: 1 May
  • 1885: 1 May
  • 1895: 1 June
  • 1905: 1 June


The laws for each year made it clear about the when, who, and how of the enumeration.

For example, read the 1875 act here (Chapter 137, pages 161-162) for free on the website of the Minnesota Office of the Revisor of the Statutes. Minnesota Session Laws – 1875, Regular Session General Laws is part of a posting on that website of all such legislative sessions for the state.

This is one part of that law that tells how the information is to be gathered. It doesn’t say that it has to be only the head of every family providing the details.

1875 census instructions

It really is fascinating to read the law that pertains to each of the Minnesota state enumerations. Also a bit sad. A variation of this same exclusionary sentence appeared for each: “No enumeration of Indians not entitled to the right of suffrage, under the constitution and laws of this state, shall be included in the census . . .”

Anyone with Native American background in Minnesota should still check the state censuses. Remember, the laws and guidelines were not always followed by the enumerators. In many cases, that’s a good thing.

For years, I have heard varying stories about why there was no 1915 or later state census. Unlike neighboring Iowa which took a 1915 and 1925 enumeration, South Dakota which has 1915, 1925, 1935 and 1945 enumerations, and North Dakota which has 1915 and 1925 censuses, Minnesota stopped with the 1905 enumeration as did Wisconsin.

A general document search on the Revisor of the Statutes site did not yield any mention of a 1915 census enumeration nor did a search of the specific 1915 legislative general session.

Among the places to find Minnesota state censuses are:

  • digitized and searchable
  • digitized and searchable; also on microfilm at the Family History Library
  • digitized and searchable
  • Minnesota Historical Society: on microfilm with online index:
  • Plus many libraries around Minnesota plus in some other states.


© 2015, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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2 comments on “Official census enumeration dates: the law and Minnesota

  1. Hi,
    Sorry this is long a comment, I’m a senior in high school and have researched my family history, but this is one brick wall I can’t break through.I have an ancestor that by oral history has been supposedly Native American (Catawba). There are 5 children from her and I’ve contacted descendants 4 of the children, and we all have the family tradition that she was Catawba Indian, yet I have no records verifying this. Her husband remarried after she died, and the children from her are listed as white (yet the father is known to be white). Also, unfortunately, she was born in 1813 an died in 1844 in North Carolina so she missed the Dawes Roles and the US Censuses. I’ve reached out to the Catawba Nation in South Carolina about 4 times in the past 2 years, and they have not responded to my emails.. Do you have any advice on what my next steps should be?

    1. The majority of tribes do not have a staff genealogist nor do they have many individual family histories. For this early time period you need to check church records, missionary records. dairies and journals, family bibles, histories of the area, and more. It’ really a lot of learning. Read my post on the Ancestry Blog that I reference here: That also references a course I have done for Ancestry Academy. Have you read the book “Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal” by Rachal Mills Lennon?

      Good luck with your search. Don’t forget that DNA testing might offer some help but it might not since your possible connection is far back.

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