Arkansas Genealogy

This guide is designed to assist with using the archival and history resources of the University of Arkansas Libraries for conducting family history and genealogical research.

Arkansas Census

Census records are important sources for genealogical research. Enumberated schedules for the census population for Arkansas are available on microfilm in Multimedia Services on level two of Mullins Library. Microfilm are available to on-site researchers or via interlibrary loan (please see the ILL tab that is part of this guide).

The population census lists individual names, place of birth, ages, etc. For Arkansas genealogy, the census population schedules are going to be the most useful in finding details about family members.

14th Arkansas census of population (1920)

1830-1910, 1930 Arkansas census of population


Using the Sound Index

The Soundex system is a name guide utilized by the National Archives to index the decennial censuses. It codes together surnames that sound similar but have different spellings. Sound Indexes are available on microfilm in Multimedia Services on level two of Mullins Library.

1920 and 1930 Sound Indexes

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Philips County Arkansas 1930


For beginners

The best strategy for searching the census is to start with the most recent available census and then work backward in time. Begin genealogy searches with the census if your ancestors were in the United States before 1930. In April of 2012, the 1940 census will become available, and this will be the new threshold for U.S. federal census information. You will most likely find your ancestors in the census, and these can be the first documents that you will use to add evidence to your family stories. To help interpret what you find, use Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records or Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians.

What you should know when researching specific decades

As a provision of the United States Constitution, the  Federal Census is scheduled to occur every ten years.Its main purpose is to count the number of people living in the United States in order to apportion Congressional districts. In general, the government does all that it can to keep a complete record including all Americans. This dedication to accuracy makes the census a valuable genealogical tool.

  • 1790-1840 censuses include the names of the heads of households only.
  • 1850 is the first federal census to include the names of all members of a household, including children.
  • 1870 is the first census after the Civil War and therefore is the first census to list all African Americans.
  • 1880 is the first census to include street addresses.
  • 1890 this census was mostly destoryed by fire. Only a fragment of the census remains.