Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1842

Don’t Forget the (Free!) Territorial and State Censuses

Although they are not as informative as the decennial federal censuses, Wisconsin’s territorial and state census returns can offer useful information about the growth and development of places—such as Mequon—and can add to what we know about a family—like the Clarks—and their neighbors at various times between the once-a-decade federal census population schedules. For a nice explanation and overview of federal, territorial and state census history in Wisconsin, please go to the Wisconsin census FamilySearch.org wiki page. This is an invaluable first stop for locating these records. Be sure to peruse the lists of which records have been preserved for which counties; not all census records have survived. And the Wisconsin Historical Society has a similar page of useful Census Research Tips

The FamilySearch.org Wiki page is kept pretty current, but there have been a few changes that may not be reflected there yet. In one positive development (especially for the safer-at-home researcher), it appears that all of the microfilmed state and territorial censuses are now viewable—at no cost—via the FamilySearch.org portal. (Note that you will have to use a free account to be able to view the digitized images online. So create an account if you don’t already have one, and login before you search the indexes and click the links for the multitude of digitized microfilms.)

Here are some links and tips to speed your search. For the FamilySearch.org index, click here: United States, Wisconsin online census collections. You should land on a page that looks like this:

Screen shot of top part of results page, FamilySearch.org,> Catalog search > Place = United States–Wisconsin > Keyword= Census > Availability = Online. Click to open larger image in new window.

If your results don’t look like this, be sure that (1.) you are signed in at the top right of the screen, (2.) you have clicked the “Online” button under “Availability” and then (3.) click “Update” just to make sure your selections are recognized.

Once there, click once on any of the census listings that interest you. For example, when you click on the 1842 census, you should see something like this:

Click on the blue link to “Wisconsin territory census for 1842.” That should take you to this page:

Click to open larger image in new window.

I added the red oval in the lower right corner to call your attention to three important bits of information. First, look under the word “Format.” You should see an icon that looks like a camera; this means digital images are available for that filmed record. If you don’t see the camera icon, but see something that looks like a roll of (micro)film, then check again in the upper right corner of the screen and be sure you are logged in to your free account.

The other important items are the film numbers. The “Film” number is the catalog number for Genealogical Society of Utah’s collection of microfilmed records. This film’s number, often called the FHL number, is 1,213,919, and the 1842 census is the third item on the film. Not the third image, but the third item; more on this in a moment.

Once those microfilms are digitized, they are also assigned a “DGS” film number. The DGS film number for FHL film 1,213,919 is DGS 7,897,817, and the 1842 census also will be the third item on the digital version of the microfilm. Record these numbers for future reference and easy searching in the FamilySearch online catalog.

Some of these digitized territorial and state censuses have been indexed and have search functions; many—like this 1842 census—do not. So you’ll need to do some browsing to find your desired results. Start by clicking on that camera icon under the word “Film.” Your next screens should look like:

Click to open larger image in new window.

See the image circled in red? That’s the “target.” Always double-click on and read the target:

Click to open larger image in new window.

Notice the “Item No.” in the lower right corner of the target? This is the start of the first item on the film, the 1836 Wisconsin Territorial Census. Take a browse through the images, if you like.. But we are looking for Item No. 3. We will have better luck finding this if we zoom out to the big grid of thumbnail images by clicking on the icon of little white thumbnails; it’s just below the “+” and “-” icons at the upper left of this screen. While in thumbnail view, you’ll need to scroll past the target for item no. 2 and find the target for item no. 3.

And if you don’t like lots of scrolling, you can also jump to any image. Find the box at the upper left that says “Image [ 3 ] of 532” That means there are 532 individual images on this digitized microfilm and you’re currently looking at image number 3. Click into the white box and substitute any number between 1 and 532 to skip around in this film. Try 250 and if that goes too far ahead, try 200; if you’re too far away from your desired image, try 275, and so on. This is especially useful for longer films with thousands of images.

Eventually you’ll find the target for item no. 3. It’s film image 259 of 532:

Click to open larger image in new window.

If you click to the next image, you’ll see that this territorial census microfilm reflects the original oganization of the documents as stored at the Wisconsin Historical Society: ordered alphabetically by county, starting with Brown county.

If you’re looking for Mequon, this is the perfect time to remind yourself that while Mequon has not moved over time, it has been part of both Washington county and—after they split in 1853—Ozaukee county. And in the very early years of Wisconsin Territory, Washington Co. was “attached” to Milwaukee Co. for legal purposes, including the census. Confused? I covered this in some detail in an early blog post, “Where Are We?

In the 1842 Wisconsin territorial census, Washington county is enumerated at the end of the bound volume of Milwaukee county census schedules. The Washington county census begins on film image 424 of 532, which shows Milwaukee county census pages 62 and 63:

1842 Wisconsin State Census, Washington Co. attached to Milwaukee Co. pages 62–63

Like the other territorial and state censuses, the 1842 census lists only heads of households. The first two columns list numbers of “White Males” and “White Females,” the next two columns are for “Coloured Males” and “Coloured Females,” the column on the far right lists the total persons in each home. At the bottom of page 63 the enumerator was nice enough to note when he began to record the residents of “Washington Co. Town 9, Range 21,” i.e., the Town of Mequon.

Washington county was not very populous at the time. Following are the other pages of the complete 1842 Wisconsin territorial census for Washington county:

1842 Wisconsin State Census, Washington Co. attached to Milwaukee Co. pages 64-65.

The J. M. Clark family is on page 65, line 17, two males and two females. That should be parents Jonathan and Mary (Turck) Clark and their daughter, Caroline. But who is the other male? Son Henry was not born until February of the following year, almost eight months after this census. So who’s the other male? A Clark or Turck relative helping on the farm? A hired hand? Perhaps an 8- or 9-year-old Arthur Clark?

One other possibility comes to mind for the “extra” male in the house. Mary (Turck) Clark’s mother, Rachael Gay Turck died eleven months before this 1842 census. When she died, five of her eight children were still under the age of 16; in 1842 her youngest child, Benjamin Turck, was about 2 years old. Did Jonathan and Mary take little Benjamin into their house? It seems plausible, but for the moment is only speculation.

Other neighbors on these pages include father-in-law Peter Turk [Turck], Jesse Hubbard, Barton Salisbury, and the George, James, H. V., William T. and Charles Bonniwell families, as well as Widow Hyde [i.e., mother Bonniwell] and Bonniwell brother-in-law Philip Morse [sic, should be Moss]

1842 Wisconsin State Census, Washington Co. attached to Milwaukee Co. pages 66–67.

Early Mequon settlers above include Daniel Strickland, Isham Day, J. W. Woodworth and Stephen and Joseph Loomer, clustered together near the bottom of page 67.

1842 Wisconsin State Census, Washington Co. attached to Milwaukee Co. pages 68-69.

The top page here, page 68, concludes the 1842 census of Washington county. The first three names on page 68 are the final listings for the Town of Mequon. The next seventeen households belong to Town 10 – Range 21, which is all of the Town of Cedarburg and the westernmost part of the Town of Grafton. Notable early settlers and families enumerated here include Ruben Wells, John Weston and E. N. Danforth.

The final three families recorded in Washington county were in Town 11–Range 21, the Town of Saukville. The heads of household were [Mr.] Aurora Adams, Suah Cass and Silas R. Stevens. Page 68 concludes with the totals for Washington county. (I have not checked the math; from the marks on page 68, and the totals on page 69, it appears that someone else did check, and found the results in error.) As recorded by enumerator Levi Ostrander and submitted by him, under oath, on July 1, 1842, there were:

  • W[hite] Males = 529
  • [White] Females = 431 [corrected to 435]
  • “Coloured Males” = 1
  • “Coloured Females” [none]
  • Total residents of Washington Co. = 965

The U. S. federal census of this era did not refer to “Coloured” males and females. The official language was “Free Persons of Color,” and this included any person that was not “White” and not enslaved. Depending on the area of the nation, this could involve persons of many ethnicities, including those of a wide variety of African, Hispanic or Native American origins.1 In 1842, there was only one non-white male enumerated in the whole of Washington county, and he was living in Saukville with Aurora Adams.2

The last page, page 69, concludes the 1842 census for all of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Territory and totals the results by district. Click the image and check the results.

Next time: links to other Wisconsin Territorial and State censuses.


  1. The federal census of this era also counted the numbers of “Slaves,” male and female, in varying amounts of detail. These categories appear to be omitted from the 1842 Wisconsin Territory enumeration. This is logical, as Wisconsin was never a slave-holding territory, and was expected to enter the Union as a Free State.
  2. It should also be noted that there were a large number of Native Americans still living in southeastern Wisconsin throughout the early decades of white settlement. (And there are many Native Americans living in Wisconsin today.) Generally speaking, Native Americans were not enumerated on federal, state and territorial censuses until the latter half of the nineteenth century. Native American genealogy is complicated and not one of my areas of expertise. If you are interested, you might start with this FamilySearch Wiki page, and this Wisconsin-focused page as well as other useful sites on the web, such as this resource from the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.

7 thoughts on “Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1842

  1. Pingback: Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1846 | Clark House Historian

    • Excellent question, with a complicated answer.

      Over the centuries the U.S. states and their pre-statehood predecessors have generated a vast amount of records, and a remarkably large portion of those have survived. But what has survived and what has not really varies from place to place. And even though an enormous number of records have been microfilmed and, more recently, digitized, these easily-available records are just the tip of the iceberg. The great majority of records remain to be discovered and consulted onsite in archives, courthouses and historical societies.

      If you are interested in records of a particular place or topic, one of my favorite (and free!) starting points is the FamilySearch Research Wiki, currently containing over 93,000 articles with suggestions on research strategies, websites, records, and repositories. It’s a great place to begin.


  2. Reed –
    Thanks for all of your research efforts. It is interesting to see Jonathan Clark and Peter Turck along with other early settlers.
    Nina Look, Jonathan Clark Huse Museum


    • Hi Nina!

      You’re welcome. It is interesting to observe the comings and goings of the area families. I’ve been struck by the incredibly rapid growth of Washington/Ozaukee county from the first territorial census in 1836 through the 1860s or so. I’ve got posts published or scheduled covering Clark, Turck, and other Mequon families on all of the Wisconsin territorial censuses. I hope you enjoy them.


  3. Pingback: Census Records for the In-Between Years: 1838 | Clark House Historian

  4. Pingback: Sarah and Cyrus: part 3 | Clark House Historian

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