Delaware's United States census material offers a wealth of information to a researcher. Genealogists find census records particularly useful for tracing family lines or histories in the state. Historians find them useful for local history information. Social scientists find them useful for demographics, ethnic studies,etc. Federal census records date from 1790 and continue every 10th year. As a general rule the information in each successive census is progressively more detailed. The schedules for the period 1790-1840 show the names of enumerated heads of families only, and others in the household are tallied by characteristics (age groups, sex, and race). All subsequent enumerations, however, list each individual in a household by name. The most recent census available at the archives is 1940. Because they contain personal information, census records can only be released 72 years after their creation. Separately created indices are available in book form for the years up to and including 1870. After this point, researchers can access census records on microfilm or through Described below is the information that is relevant for certain census records years.

1790 Delaware's federal census for this year was recreated by tax assessments

1800-1840 indexed by household head

1850-1870 1850 census began to include names of individuals other than household head

1880, 1900, 1920 indexed by the Soundex system, explained below

1930 Computer index available in the research room.

1890 census records for Delaware were destroyed by fire

1910 this census was not indexed for the state of Delaware, so you must know where an individual lived to then search through enumeration districts.

1940 are the most recent available census records available are only available online at

Special Census Records

Delaware Public Archives houses various federal special census records. Mortality schedules, created in 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880, enumerate name and description of deceased (age, sex, race, marital status); place of birth; month of death; profession, occupation, or trade; cause of death; and number of days ill. The 1880 mortality schedules include father and mother’s birthplace and name of the attending physician. Slave schedules enumerate slave owners and number of slaves for the years 1850 and 1860. These schedules include  description of slaves (age, sex, color); if slaves are fugitives from the state; manumitted;  and deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic. The 1860 slave schedules also include  number of slave houses. Agriculture schedules, created in1850 through 1880, enumerate  name of owner, agent, or manager of the farm; number of acres on the farm (improved or unimproved); value of farm and equipment; kind and number of livestock; total value of all livestock; kind and quantity of produce for the year; and value of animals slaughtered. The 1870 and 1880 schedules include total amount of wages paid during the year and the value of board, as well as estimated value of all farm production (sold, consumed, or on hand).

Industry schedules, created in 1850, 1860, and 1870, enumerate name of corporation, company, or individual, producing articles to the annual value of $500; name of business, manufacture, or product; capital investment; raw material used (quantities, kinds, values); source of power (hand, water, wind, steam, horse); number of employees (male and female); wages; and annual product (quantities, kinds, values). In 1880, the manufacturer schedule began including such operations as agricultural implements; paper mills; boot and shoe factories; lumber and sawmills; brick yards and file works; flour and grist mills; cheese, butter, and condensed milk factories; slaughtering and meat-packing; salt works; and distilleries. The schedule also includes wages and hours of labor; months in operation; power used (hand, water, steam, wind, horse); types and quantities of materials and supplies involved in manufacturing; value of materials and supplies; and finished products and by-products produced.

Social statistics schedules, created in 1850, 1860, and 1870, enumerate overall conditions of the state’s welfare, such as: valuation of estate (real and personal); annual taxes (types, amount, method of payment); colleges, academies, and schools (type of   school, number of teachers, number of pupils, amounts received from taxes, public funds, or other sources); seasons and crops (crops that came up short, extent of shortage, average crop); libraries (number of library edifices, type of ownership and number of   volumes); newspapers and periodicals (name, character [political or social view], how often published, circulation); religion (number of church edifices, maximum   accommodation, value of church); pauperism (name of division, number of native and foreign paupers supported through the year, total number of native and foreign paupers as of June 1st, amount of cost of support); crime (number of natives and foreigners incarcerated as of June 1st); and wages (average wages of a farm laborer with board, day-laborer with and without board, day wages to a carpenter without board, weekly wages of female domestic with board, and price of board to laboring men per week).

In 1880, the format of social statistics schedules was altered to include more information about paupers and indigent inhabitants, homeless children, and inhabitants who were incarcerated, insane, idiotic, deaf-mutes and/or blind. The schedules show type of physical or personal disability, page and line reference to population schedule, name and location of inhabitant, reason or cause for being institutionalized, date of discharge, and whether inhabitant is self-supporting.

How to Use the Soundex Coding System

See also this Online Soundex Calculator for an on-line conversion utility.

If the full name of an individual is known, and if he/she was the head of a household in Delaware, one will be able to search for them in the 1880, 1900, and 1920 federal census records by using the Soundex coding index system. The 1880 Soundex index included only those families that had a member aged 10 or younger. The 1900 and 1920 Soundex system indexed every family by head (including single individuals), and thus included the entire population.

To search for a particular surname, the Soundex code must be used. The Soundex system was developed so that a surname can be found, although it may have various spellings. Each Soundex code consists of a letter and 3 numbers. An example of this coding is B650-this is the Soundex code for the last name "Brown". The letter in the Soundex code is always the first letter of the last name. The numbers are made from the remaining letters of the last name. There must always be 3 numbers in the code. Zeros are added if the coding falls short of the 3 required digits.

Steps for Soundex Coding

1. Write out the name you are searching.

2. Below it, begin coding by writing the first letter of the name as your lead.

3. Start assigning numbers to the remaining letters in the order you come to them, using these guidelines:

The number represents the letter

  1. B P F V
  2. C S K G J Q X Z
  3. D T
  4. L
  5. M N
  6. R

Do not code A, E, I, O, U, W, Y, and H.

4. If you have finished coding the name and do not have three numbers, add zeros to complete the coding.

Helpful Hints

Names with prefixes, such as VanDorpe, may have been coded with or without the prefix. Code it both ways to be sure (Mc and Mac are not considered prefixes). Letters that are side by side that have the same coding must be treated as one letter. Also note that although the initial letter does not receive a number code, you must consider its coding when assigning the first number. If they receive the same number, disregard the coding and go on to the next letter.

Example: Pfisk P200

Using the Code in the Census

Once you have coded the name correctly, you can use the coding in the microfilmed Soundex card index to find a reference for a census page. The Soundex index is broken down by state, coded number, and alphabetically by first name of the individual. There may be several names and codes grouped together. Check for the first name you need and then scan the codes until you find the individual you need. You can confirm that you have the right individual by checking the information available on the index card. Listed are other family members or individuals in the same household, and information such as race, age, place of residence, etc. Once you find the individual's card, copy all of the information in the top right-hand corner. These four numbers will direct you to the actual census page. "Vol." refers to the volume, "E.D." to the enumeration district, and the "sheet" and "line" references further direct you to the specific individual in the census. Using the enumeration district reference will direct you to the specific reel needed to see the actual census page.


1. Spell the surname with a letter within each box:

2. Write the first letter of the surname:

3. Cross out the remaining letters of the surname that will not receive a number code, and write out those that can be coded in the first set of boxes below. In the second set of boxes, write the number that corresponds to the letter, as taken from the chart. letter: number: Limit the amount of numbers to three. If there are more than three, remove the excess; if it falls short, add zeros to add up to three.

4. Write out the first letter of the code and the three numbers you derived from the name. This is the Soundex code that will allow you to search for the name of an individual in the 1880, 1900, and 1920 census.