1888 Indian Census of New York

Tusc 1888 census

In the US federal census before 1900, Indians living on reservations were not enumerated on the regular census schedules.  I’m not positive when they began to be included, but I know they were not in 1880 and they were by 1930.  I was looking for the earliest records available that listed tribal members for the Tuscarora tribe, so when I found the 1888-1893 Indian census records, I was quite pleased to see that entire families had been enumerated, not just heads of households, etc.

These original records have been digitized by Ancestry in conjunction with the National Archives.  Unfortunately, all of the New York tribes are lumped together in New York records, 808 pages of them.

I went through and for the first three years and nearly 500 pages, sorted them into tribes and reservations, the way that they were actually enumerated.  I compared the records for the Tuscarora from 1888-1891 and they are consistent, so this looks like a quality enumeration.

I found it particularly interesting that in 1766, 160 Tuscarora arrived in New York from North Carolina, the majority of the tribe.  A few more made the journey in 1802.  The Tuscarora in New York were adopted either by the Seneca or Oneida, depending on the resource you reference.  By 1889, they had 404 tribal members and in 1891, the total was 392.

Reading these census records also points out how much cross-visitiation there was between tribes.  You’ll notice several records of one tribe’s members living on another tribes reservation.  I’m sure that intermarriage was very prevalent as well. In fact, there was one elderly lady in her 80s by the last name of Fish.  Since she is the only Fish listed, I have to wonder if she didn’t marry outside the tribe and then move back as a widow.  In 1891, a new name was introduced among the Tuscarora by a young woman in her 20s, DeFeurest.

I noticed another name that occurs only once among the Tuscarora, Jemison (Jenison) but is found prolifically among the Seneca.  These records make for interesting reading.  I wish we had records to fill in the gaps between the 1760/1800 Tuscarora land sales in North Carolina, the few War of 1812 records and the 1888 census enumeration.

New York Indian Census Enumeration



Seneca at Tonawanda






St. Regis on St. Regis Reservation (pg 51)


Oneida on the Onondaga Reservation


Cayuga residing on different Indian reservations in NY


Senecas on the Cattauragas Reservation


Tonawanda Senecas residing on Cattaraugus Reservation


At Orphan Asylum (for orphan Indians) – note this asylum’s residents were listed in the 1880 federal census (found doing Printup lookup)


Seneca Residing on the Allegheny Reservation


Tonawanda Baud. (sic)


Onondaga residing on the Cattaraugus Reservation


Onondaga residing on the Allegheny Reservation

Signed at the end:  New York Agency, August 10, 1888, Enumeration of the Onondaga at Allegheny furnished by a chief.



The next segment, begins again with the Seneca on the Allegheny reservation in June of 1889


Tonawanda band of Seneca on the Tonawanda Reservation


Seneca on the Cattauragus Reservation


Onondaga on the Allegheny Reservation furnished by a chief


Onondaga on the Cattauragus Reservation


Cayuga on the Cattauragus Reservation furnished by a Chief


Oneida on the Oneida Reservation furnished by a Chief


Onondaga on the Onondaga Reservation


Oneida on the Onondaga Reservation furnished by a chief


Onondaga on the Tuscarora Reservation


Tuscarora on the Tuscarora Reservation provided by a chief


Tuscarora Children at Orphan Home (listed separately but included with Tuscarora totals)





Seneca children in orphan’s home


Tonawanda band of ? residing on Cattaraugus Reservation


Tonawanda band of Seneca on Allegheny Reservation




Tuscarora orphans at asylum


Tonowanda band of Seneca


Senecas of Cattauragus residing on Tonawanda Reservation






Onondaga residing on Cattauragus Reservation

1892 begins here


I did not extract 1892 nor further.  These records continue through 1893, 808 pages in all.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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8 Responses to 1888 Indian Census of New York

  1. Christopher says:

    Very interesting article! My guess as to why Indians were not included in the US Census before 1880 was that they were not considered US Citizens. I just read a good article explaining that the 14th amendment to the US Constitution did not apply to Indians, as I had assumed. Here is a quote from that article:

    “In 1887 Congress passed the Dawes Act which allowed Indians to become citizens if they had abandoned their tribes and adopted the habits of civilized life. It was generally assumed that “civilized life” meant that they could speak English, had become Christian, and were actively engaged in farming. In 1924 and again in 1940, Congress passed legislation granted citizenship to all Indians.”

    Keep up the good work!

  2. got2bjb says:

    NICE!!!!! Once again U ROCK!!!!! I read something similar on the effect of “Civilizing the Savages” (of course not the terms I personally would use)! I also ready something along the lines of. They were forced to intermix with the “White people”? the Native people could keep there land and had to use it for farming?! Wasn’t sure if I possibly perceived that wrong? Seems like at first These emigrants thought in order to “Civilize” the Savages” They needed them to intermix and to conform to there ways. Then once the Natives did not. The Laws were Changed again. to something of the effect that if any “White People Intermixed. It was Prohibited! Throw in a language barrier between that. and It would be apparent why the Natives would want no part of it!

  3. I love your posts and the work you do and am wondering if you have ever done research on the Shoshoni or Arapahoe Tribes?

    • I have not because the western tribes were preserved much longer than the eastern tribes. However, I am in the process of trnascribing all of the WWI draft registrations for all 48 cntinental states and there will surely be some there. If you know of any documents, I’d be glad to include them.

  4. leannatkin says:

    Your posts and YOU are simply amazing! This column ROCKS! Living in Wyoming I can’t help but ask if your research extends further west? Specifically the Shoshoni and Arapahoe Tribes?

  5. Mavis says:

    Yes once again you have wowed me too.My suspected Tuscarora heritage is on my mothers side.When I read the names on the Tuscarora census I was stunned. The last names on my mothers side are Hill,Williams,Brown,Johnson and Pleasant.These families seem to have lived and moved closely together for a couple of hundred years.I suspect that my branch could pass for white or stayed behind in NC.It was also interesting to see 2 women named Avis.Thanks again for providing this information it has helped shed some light into one of our family mysteries…..Where did we all go? and Why?

  6. Jacqueline simmons says:

    Im looking for a Richard Tarbell who had a daughter Joann.She was born on the reservation. I do not know who Richard Tarbell’s wife was. Richard and he’s daughter Joann moved to Albany NY.Any help you can give me would be deeply appreciated.

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