Obtaining AD/ED for the 1905/15/25 New York State Census in One Step
Frequently Asked Questions

Stephen P. Morse , San Francisco


1. Did New York have its own census, independent of the federal census?

The federal census was taken every ten years starting in 1790.  New York State took its own census every ten years from 1825 to 1875, then again in 1892.  They took three more in 1905, 1915, and 1925 and those were the last ones taken.  Those last three are the most useful because of the specific questions they asked and because this was the time of a large influx of immigrants.  This One-Step page focuses on those last three New York State censuses.

The censuses from 1825 to 1845 were more concerned with agriculture than with people.  The only names listed were the heads of households.  Many of those records have been lost.  The 1855 to 1875 censuses listed every person in the household and their place of birth including state if born in the US and county if born in NY.    There was no census in 1885 (I don't know why).  The 1892 census is less useful than the preceding ones because it does not delimit families and asks only for the country of birth.  The censuses from 1905 to 1925 once again delimited families but still asked only for the country of birth.  I don't know why there were no censuses taken after 1925 but I suspect that the depression had something to do with it.

For more details see the following sites:

http://www.frontiernet.net/~halsey1/ny/ny-census.htm
http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/genealogy/nyscens.htm


2. What are AD and ED?

For the federal census, each county in each state is divided into enumeration districts (ED); an enumeration district is defined by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as a "basic geographic area of a size that could be covered by a single census taker (enumerator) within one census period."

For election purposes New York is divided into assembly districts (AD) and each assembly district is divided into election districts (ED).  Rather than defining new districts for the census, New York decided to use the existing AD/ED partitions and assign one election district to each enumerator (census taker).  So a state AD/ED pair is equivalent to a federal ED.

Do not confuse the federal term ED with the state term ED -- the former is an acronym for enumeration district and the latter for election district.
 

3. Why do I need to know about AD/EDs?

In the 1905/15/25 New York State censuses, the information is arranged by AD/ED in the actual census microfilms.  In order to locate a person, you need to know the AD/ED in which that person's address was located at the time the census was taken (i.e., the AD/ED of that address in the most recent general election prior to the census date).  So you need some means for converting the person's address into an AD/ED pair.  That's where the information on this site may be helpful.
 

4. What can I do once I know the AD and ED?

At this point you are ready to access the actual census microfilm rolls and view the census page.  The information you obtain from this website will tell you which microfilm roll you need.

The 1905 microfilm rolls for 1905 are available online at the familysearch website.  When you have obtained the AD/ED of your address from this One-Step website, a "Display Image" button will appear.  Clicking that button will get you to the first page of that AD/ED.  From their you can navigate to the other pages in the AD/ED.

The other microfilm rolls are not on line but can be viewed at many libraries.  One such library is the main branch of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.  They can also be ordered by any branch of the Family History Library of the Mormon Church.
 

5. How do I use this website?

The first step is the same for all years and boroughs.

1. Check the radio button corresponding to the census year you are interested in and the borough in which your address is located.
The remaining instruction differ slightly depending on which year and borough you selected.

For 1915 Brooklyn and 1915 Manhattan:

2. Enter your address consisting of housenumber and street.  Leave off the housenumber if you want to see the data for the entire street.

3. Press the submit button and you will see the AD/ED corresponding to that address.

For all other year/borough combination:
2. Select the street you are interested in.  A list of AD/EDs that this street passes through will be displayed.

3. Select additional cross streets until the set of AD/EDs common to all is reduced to a single entry.  If the two cross streets do not reduce the set to a single entry, add additional streets to complete the city block on which the address is located.  Note that to do this, you need to pay careful attention as to which side of the street the address is located.

4. If you don't know the cross streets for your address, enter the housenumber in the present-day map section and press the Yahoo or Mapquest button.  Of course the street name and/or the house numbers might have changed over the years.  See question 12.  Also for changed house numbers in Manhattan, see this online Atlas for the City of New York.

For all:
At this point the One-Step site will show you the AD/ED in which your address is located, and also the FHL microfilm roll number that contains that AD/ED.  In some cases it might even tell you the page number within that AD/ED.  Fetch the microfilm and scroll through to the specified AD/ED.  If the page number was specified, scroll to that page, otherwise go page by page looking for the address you want.


6. Does this website cover the entire state of New York?

Although the census was taken in the entire state, this website focuses on New York City only.  The city is divided into five boroughs -- namely Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.
 

7. Are the boroughs of New York City the same as counties?

Each borough is a county although the county names are not always the same as the borough names.  The boroughs of Bronx and Queens are indeed Bronx County and Queens County.  But Brooklyn is Kings County, Manhattan is New York County, and Staten Island is Richmond County.
 

8. Can I search for a person by name instead of by address?

There is a commercially available name index for Staten Island in 1925.

A One-Step project is currently underway to generate a name index for 1925 Brooklyn, but only a small portion of those records have been transcribed so far.  To see that work, go to

http://stevemorse.org/brooklyn/brooklyn.php
As far as we know, there are currently no other name indexes for the 1905/15/25 New York State censuses, so you must start by knowing the persons address.  Of course that may change in the future.
 

9. What do I do if I do not have the address of the person I want to find?

There exist city directories for various years and various boroughs of New York City.  A city directory is like a telephone book but without phone numbers.  You can try accessing the directory closest to the year you are interested in.  These directories can be accessed at many libraries, including the main branch of the New York Public Library (42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan) and at the Family History Libraries of the Mormon Church.

The following relevant city directories exist.  For specific details, click on the borough name.

Manhattan and Bronx: yearly (occasionally biannually)  from 1860 to 1922, 1925, 1931, 1933/34
Brooklyn: yearly from 1822 to 1910, 1912, 1913, 1933/34
Queens1, Queens2, Queens3, Queens4: 1898, 1899, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1906/7, 1908/9, 1909/10, 1912, 1925, 1933/34
Staten Island: 1933/34
Other potential sources for a person's address are Social Security applications, old letters and envelopes, telephone directories, death certificates, birth certificates, naturalization papers, ship manifests, wedding certificates, school records, religious records, voter registration, and the U.S. Census records.

 Another potential source for addresses is the Military Census of 1917 for New York State which is indexed by the first letter of the last name.  That census is available for Manhattan at the New York County Clerk's Office (Division of Old Records) and for Brooklyn at the Kings County Clerk's Office.  Also check the WWI draft registration cards which can be found at the National Archives and also on ancestry.com.

For Queens it may be possible to narrow down your  AD/ED choices simply by knowing the community they lived in.  Click on the following to see lists of communities and their corresponding AD/EDs.

Queen (1915 and 1925)

10. How was the data for this site obtained?

Suzanne Danet obtained the data for 1925 Brooklyn and 1925 Bronx by transcribing tables found in books by Merton Sarvay.  Joel Weintraub augmented those files from FHL (Family History Library)  fiches of 1925 NYC census maps.  Joel also generated tables for 1925 Manhattan and 1925 Queens from the FHL fiches, and  Bobby Furst did the same for 1925 Staten Island.  The information for 1915 Brooklyn and 1915 Manhattan came from files given to us by C. Marie Taylor that formed the basis of an FHL publication for those boroughs.  Elise Friedman obtained the data for 1915 Queens from FHL films showing address to AD/ED notations.  The 1915 Staten Island and Bronx files were produced by Joel from 1914 AD/ED maps provided by the New York Public Library, and additional maps of the Bronx from the New York City Hall Library and the Bronx County Clerk's Office.  The 1905 Manhattan table was produced by plotting ED boundaries from the New York Times of 1904 on a 1916 map, and transcribing streets from within those EDs.  Joel also transcribed Brooklyn 1905 by using boundary definitions from the Brooklyn Eagle for 1905.

Numerous volunteers assisted in this project -- they are

 Arlene Fruchter
 Barbara Farquharson
 Barbara Rushinski
 Bobby Furst
 Eileen Oesterle
 Hariette Gershon
 Ines Mannhardt
 Kathy Then
 Michael Kaplan
 Pat Eckardt
 Peter Rader
 Rich Donaghy
 Sandi Goldsmith
 Shelly Weiner
We are grateful that the Roswell Family History Center in Georgia and its director Karen Opp graciously donated the use of their digital scanner for this project.

We would also like to thank the Map Division of the New York Public Library for providing us with maps of the Election Districts.
 

11. What do I do if my borough/year is not fully covered on this website?

This question is no longer applicable.  As of August 2006, all borough/year combinations for which the census exists are fully covered by this website.
 

12. What do I do if I can't find my street name on a current map.

Since you are searching for addresses that may be 100 years old, there's a good chance that the street name you are looking for has changed.  This is particular true for Queens (for which many streets were renamed during the 1920s) and Staten Island.  The One-Step website provides a good resource for finding a list of street-name changes for many urban areas.  It is at

http://stevemorse.org/census/changes.html
You might also have to look at an old city directory (see question 9) if your address has also been renumbered.  City directories often give the cross streets for the house numbers in existence as of the time the directory was printed.
 

13a. Why can't I get down to a single AD/ED for my 1925 address?

There are two ways to find the AD/ED depending on the specific year and borough (see question 5).  One is to find it from the street address and the other from a set of cross streets.  The problem occurs with the cross-street method.  Let me explain why.

Assume that we have an AD/ED that consists of just one city block.  And it is bounded on the top by North Street, on the bottom by South Street, on the left by West Street., and on the right by East Street.  When you enter those four street names, the website searches for all AD/EDs that contain all four of the streets and finds the single AD/ED that satisfies the condition.  That AD/ED value is displayed.

That part is simple.  But now consider that we have the same city block but it is cut diagonally into two AD/EDs.  Each of those two AD/EDs is a triangle that consists of exactly one half a city block.  This situation is not uncommon in the 1925 census.  Let us assume that ED 1 is the upper left triangle and ED 2 is the lower right.  So ED 1 consists of North and West Streets only and ED 2 consists of South and East Streets only.  If those streets were all that we put into our tables, you would get no AD/EDs when you entered the complete city block of North, East, South, and West Streets.  On the other hand, if we entered all four streets for both EDs, you would get both AD/EDs.  We decided that it was better to give an extra AD/ED (which simply means that you'll have to look through both) than to give none at all.
 

13b. Why can't I find my street/address within the shown AD/ED?

Unlike the federal Enumeration Districts that were produced for a specific federal census (taken every 10 years), New York State used existing Assembly District/Election District boundaries (which were intended for election purposes) for census purposes.  Assembly District boundaries change when the state legislature reapportions its seats.  That usually occurs after a census is taken (every 10 years).  On the other hand, Election District boundaries are more fluid and can (and often do) change between elections (both local and statewide). If you can't find your address within the AD/ED we show, it might be because the AD/ED map we used when generating our tables wasn't the exact AD/ED map that was used for that specific census -- instead we might have unknowingly used an AD/ED map from a different (but close) time period.  In this case, the utility should still get you to the right Assembly District, so look at the other EDs on your census film in that AD to see if you can locate the missing address.  Please let us know if you do encounter problems of this sort.

See also question 19
 

14. Why were the streets in Queens changed so radically, and how do I handle that?

Queens originated as a number of small communities, each with their own street names, even if the same thoroughfare went through several of these cities. A street could change its name every few blocks!!!   Over time, but especially in the 1910s and 1920s, the alphabetically-named streets were changed to numerical ones so that the street could have one name as it traversed the borough.  This also led to a renumbering of the houses.  This renaming and renumbering poses special problems for finding AD/EDs of addresses in 1915 and 1925.  (Recall that the 1905 Queens census no longer exists.)

To simplify matters, the One Step ED finder for Queens lists both the old and new street names where possible.  To distinguish them, the old name is followed by a pair of asterisks (**).  For technical reasons, this was done for 1925 only and not for 1915 -- the streets listed for 1915 are always the old name.

Now suppose you have an address for Queens that you would like to look up.  This might be the modern street name and house number, or it might be the old name and number.  Furthermore, you might not know which it is.  But you'll find out soon enough.  Consider the following cases:

1915: You attempt to select your street name but don't find it in the list.  That means you probably have the new street name

1925: You find and select your street name and see a pair of asterisks after the name.  Furthermore, your street name without the asterisks does not exist in the list.  The means you have the old street name.  (If your street name appears in the list both with and without the asterisks, and you don't know whether you have an old or new street name, you have a problem.)

1915 & 1925: You find and select your street name, but when you use the mapping program to find cross streets, it tells you that no such street exists.  That means you probably have the old street name.

1915 & 1925: You find your street and housenumber using the mapping program but it is in a different part of Queens than you expected.  That means you probably have an old house number.

If you encounter any of the above problems, here are some things you can do
If you can't find your street name in the One Step street list because you have the new name, check the One Step Queens Street Name-Change tables to find the old name.

If you find the street in the One Step street list but can't find any of the cross streets, you will be presented with all the AD/EDs that the street passes through.

You could look through each of these districts on the census sheets to find your house number.

You can reduce the number of AD/EDs that you need to look through by consulting our Queens AD/ED by Community table that shows which AD/EDs are in which section of Queens.  You probably know the name of the section because people in Queens today still use the section name rather than Queens as part of their address (for example, Bayside NY instead of Queens NY).

You can reduce the number of AD/EDs even more if you knew the cross streets.  For 1915 you'll need the old names of the cross streets, and you would ge that from the One Step Queens Street Name-Change tables.  For 1925 it would be better if you had the new names for the street and cross streets because that portion of our street list is the most complete, but you might be able to search on the old street names as well.

Well nobody said that Queens was going to be easy.
 

15. Will I encounter any special problems with street renaming in Staten Island?

Yes.  Like Queens, Staten Island is basically a collection of small communities that underwent street renumbering and renaming programs in the early 20th Century.  This makes it difficult to find AD/EDs for old addresses when consulting new street maps.  Here are some resources to use to make the search easier.

Click here for lists of street name changes for Staten Island (Richmond County).

If you have difficulty with a 1915 Staten Island address, then try to look up the address on the One-Step Federal ED Finder, making sure to choose 1910 at the top.  Once you get the 1910 ED, use this table to find the conversion between the 1910 Federal ED number (Enumeration District) and the 1915 State ED number (Election District).  Note there was only one AD (Assembly District) in Staten Island in 1915.  There probably isn't a perfect one to one correlation between the two, but the table should get you to the right section of Staten Island.
 

16. Can this utility be used to help find voter registration records?

Like the census records, the voter registration records are also accessed by AD and ED.  So the same AD/ED obtained from this utility can be used for voter registration look-ups -- at least for years close to 1905, 1915, and 1925.

Voter registration records will contain such information as naturalization, birth date, height, eye color, how long a resident of the area, and party affiliation.  Don't expect women in the early years since they didn't have the right to vote in New York until 1919.

Although the records are inconsistent as to their availability, information on voter registration during 1905 through 1925 can be found at the New York Public Library,  Brooklyn Public Library, Municipal Reference Library at Chambers Street, and Registers of  Voters of Queens and Richmond.
 

17. Why are there missing street names for the Bronx in 1915?

This question is no longer applicable.  As of August 2006, all street names for Bronx 1915 have been included.
 

18. Why do I sometimes get no AD/EDs after I have correctly entered the bounding streets for my city block?

Our search system is based on knowing all the street names within each AD/ED.  If for some reason we are missing a street name from a particular AD/ED, and you enter that street name for the block you are searching, you will get no common AD/EDs.

There are several cases in which we might be missing a street name for a particular AD/ED.  One case occurs when there has been a name change for the street since the year of the census.  In that case we might include only the old (or the new) name in that AD/ED, and you have entered the name we do not show.  Another case occurs when our tables were transcribed off of the census sheets themselves, and a street passing through an AD/ED has no population in that AD/ED.  In that case the street will not appear on the census sheet although that street is a boundary street for a particular block in the AD/ED.  Another reason might be that we simply made a mistake when transcribing the tables or the tables we obtained were incomplete.

If you encounter a situation in which you obtain no AD/EDs after entering all the boundary streets for your block, please send us the specific example.  We'll examine it and if we determine that it is occurring because we are missing a street in a particular AD/ED, we will add it.  In the meantime, as a work-around you can try eliminating one or more of the streets until you do obtain AD/EDs.  By experimenting you'll be able to narrow it down to a small number of AD/EDs.  Although that's not as good as having a single AD/ED, it's better than having none.  You can then look at the street names within each of those AD/EDs (by clicking on the AD/ED button) to determine which is the most likely to contain your address.
 

19.  Why can't I find my street address in the AD/ED that you indicate?

Here are several possible reasons for this problem.

A renumbering of the streets may have occurred since the census date.

The census taker might have skipped that address, perhaps because nobody was home.  However, at the end of the AD/ED sheets, the census taker usually went back, found missing people, and added them to the end of the section.  Always check the end of the AD/ED for missing addresses.

The mapping programs we link to may give incorrect positional information on where the address is.  That is why we provide links to more than one mapping program.  If you have trouble finding an address within an AD/ED, check the other mapping program to verify that you have the correct streets bounding your city block.  You should suspect this problem if you find, for example, only odd addresses for a street in the AD/ED when you expect an even number -- in which case the mapping program put you on the wrong side of the street, therefore in the wrong block, and as a consequence you arrived in the wrong AD/ED.

The geometry of your neighborhood might be such that it confuses the AD/ED finder.  We already discussed the problems with diagonal boundaries in question 13a.  Another example is when a cross street ends at the street we are interested in and does not intersect the side of the street that our number is on.  To illustrate this, suppose we are interested in 123 Main Street and Main Street is a boundary street with the even numbers being in one AD/ED and the odd ones being in another.  And suppose that Little Street ends at Main Street on the even side, right across the street from number 123.   In that case Little Street will be in the AD/ED that contains the even numbers on Main Street, but will not be in the AD/ED that contains the odd numbers.  Therefore, if you enter Little Street in the AD/ED finder, you will eliminate the AD/ED that contains the odd numbers on Main Street.
 

20. What was the 1890 Police Census?

[The following answer is extracted from Howard Jensen's book on the 1890 Census and lightly edited.]

It was an every name census of New York City taken by the Police department.
 
Why?

The New York City Authorities did not feel the 1890 Federal Census gave an accurate count of the city population.  This meant the city did not get a correct representation in Congress or get the proper State and Federal aid.
 
When?

The census was taken starting Monday September 29, 1890 and was about two thirds done the first week and the original 947 books were completed October 14.  Very few of the census books are dated or the page numbered.
 
How?

There were 24 Assembly Districts (AD) and each AD had from 22 to 81 Election Districts (ED).  The enumeration for each of the 947 EDs was recorded in a separate book.  A policeman was assigned one ED and give an book that had 20 lines to the page with columns for:  Street, Number, Name, Sex, Age Adult and Age Minor.
 
Area Covered.

New York City and New York County in 1890 consisted of the island of Manhattan and the West Bronx area and this was the area covered by this census.
 
Final Count.

The 1890 Federal Census had a count of 1,513,501 people in New York county.  As soon as each book was completed it was rushed to city hall where it was checked against the Federal census.  Additional names were found but it was also noted that the police had missed some people, so they were sent back with 61 new books to find those missed.  The total number of books were 1008 and the total count was 1,710,715; this amounted to a 13 percent increase over the original 1890 federal census.
 
Availability.

Of the 1008 books, 114 are missing.  The remainder of the books have been microfilmed and can be searched in New York City Archives, New York City libraries and at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The Church has Family History Centers [FHC] around the world and for a small fee you can order any of the 59 rolls of film to search at one of these FHC.
 
Peculiarities  (Applies to Howard Jensen's original book that used house numbers)

Some street names had rear or rear house added to the number.  Some had 1/2 added to the number.  Others had more than one number as 42 & 44, or 42/44, or 42-44 & 46.  Howard Jensen recorded these as 42, 42 rear, 42 1/2, 42-44, 42-44-46.

Some addresses recorded were not within the boundaries of the Enumeration District.  When a building number is repeated in another book it is underlined in the text of Jensen's book.

Some street names Howard could not find on any maps.  In those cases he used the spelling as found in the census.

A street address could appear in two or more places within a book.  Always check the entire book.

Some addresses had only one person listed and others had over 200 people listed.  Some had no address recorded, only the street was recorded, or the address was illegible.
 

21. How do you search the 1890 Police Census?

[The following answer is extracted from Howard Jensen's book on the 1890 Census and lightly edited.]

As there is no name index (except for some 25,000 on Ancestry.com), searches are done by street address.  From a city directory or a document (birth, marriage, death certificate, etc) determine the ancestor's address.  Check the street name in this index and then look for the building number under that street name.  [The preceding sentence applies to using Jensen's book directly -- when using this site you need to enter the street and any cross-streets.  You can obtain the cross streets from the housenumber and the mapping buttons at the bottom of the page.]  If found note the book number.  Then check the conversion list to obtain the FHC number of the microfilm and the item number on that film.  You will only have to check through one item on the film to find that street address.  If you do not find your ancestor at the address, check the remainder of the book as very often the policeman had to return later to find someone home and not all of one street address are together.  Also check the index to see if that address is in two or more books.

Another reason for not finding someone at an address is that in 1890 people moved very often.  Landlords offered a free months rent to a new tenant, or they would paint an empty apartment to attract new tenants.  Most of them did not move very far so look up the block, across the street or around the corner.  Apartment numbers in multi-family buildings are not shown, so more than one family is shown for each address.  Some addresses had over 200 people listed.

Book numbers 948 through 1008 were used to re-canvass an Election District so your address may appear in these books also.  An underlined street address in Jensen's book indicates it appeared in more than one book.

Some Election Districts consisted of only one side of one block on a street and one side of one block on the adjacent avenue (thus only two street names defined the location).  Other election districts consisted of many blocks and many avenues.
 

-- Steve Morse