1 of 1 people found this helpful
Dear Ms. Giannini,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
Unfortunately, if census takers did not know for sure or did not ask, they would categorize people based on skin color. The terminology used changed over time. Which census are you searching?
We hope this information is helpful.
[Assistance from Cody White, Subject Matter Expert]
3 of 3 people found this helpful
The National Archives has a guide to what kind of Native American race/ethnicity information was collected for each census- https://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/census/research-decennial-census.html
Federal Population Censuses:
Few American Indians are identified prior to 1900.
- 1790–1840: American Indians are not identified by race.
- 1850: People are identified as white, black, or mulatto.
View list of questions asked in the 1850 census
- 1860: This Census includes Indian Territory (at the end of the Arkansas schedules), but no American Indians are identified.
- 1870-1880: American Indians in the general population are identified by "I" or "In." Some reservations and Indian agencies are identified, but the schedules mostly list white or non-Indian residents.
View list of questions asked in the 1880 census
- 1900-1910: American Indians on reservations and in the general population are identified. The special Indian schedule contained additional questions to the general schedule.
View list of questions asked in the 1900 and 1910 census.
- 1920: American Indians are identified, but there are no special Indian schedules.
View list of questions asked in the 1920 census
- 1930: American Indians are identified. The degree of Indian blood and tribe are noted. There are no special Indian schedules.
- 1940: American Indians are identified. No mention of blood or tribe.