The 1885 and later censuses were compiled by the agents using forms sent by the BIA.However, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent a directive in 1885 (Circular 148) that reiterated the statement and added further instructions: "Superintendents in charge of Indian reservations should submit annually, a census of all Indians under their charge." He told the agents to use the plan he had prepared for gathering the information.The sample showed columns for Number (consecutive), Indian Name, English Name, Relationship, Sex, and Age.Since these early Indian Census Rolls contain so little information that they were never considered to be "private" in the same sense as the Federal Decennial Census; there was never any restriction against the release of the information.Gradual changes in the form of the data required and special instructions for the census are documented in National Archives Microfilm Publication M1121, to learn which NARA archival facilities have copies of this microfilm publication.*The Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940, (National Archives Microfilm Publication M595) are indexed and available online at and Fold3Prior to digitization, these records were only available via microfilm publication M595.
Use the online The Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940 ( M595, 692 rolls) contains census rolls that were usually submitted each year by agents or superintendents in charge of Indian reservations, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, as required by an act of July 4, 1884 (23 Stat. The data on the rolls vary, but usually given are the English and/or Indian name of the person, roll number, age or date of birth, sex, and relationship to head of family.Beginning in 1930, the rolls also include the degree of Indian blood, marital status, ward status, place of residence, and sometimes other information.Other information on the number of males, females, schools, school children, and teachers was to be compiled statistically and included separately in the annual report.The first form drawn up by the Commissioner asked only for name, age, sex, and family relationship.
For certain years--1935, 1936, 1938, and 1939--only supplemental rolls of additions and deletions were compiled.Most of the 1940 rolls have been retained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and are not included in this publication.