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Indian Census Records

Natives playing a stick game in front of onlookers on the Colville Reservation, approximately 1900. Indian Census records are another source of information on reservation life in this time period. Source: Spokane City Historic Preservation Office collection.

Here at the Washington State Archives we love our census records, and they are some of the most popular records with the public. The word census is often taken to refer to the federal census, conducted once every ten years as mandated by the Constitution of the United States. There are other censuses in our holdings however, including territorial censuses and even some recorded at the county level during the territorial period.

Treasures of the Archives: Tracing Pioneer Families through the Territorial Censuses

1889 engraving of the California Hotel, where Parker plied his trade as a barber. The building was lost a few months later in Spokane’s Great Fire, but the Parker family endured. Image from Spokane Falls Illustrated (1889).

Sometime before 1885, J. Bryson Parker, a barber by trade, moved from Nevada to set up shop in the booming frontier community of Spokane Falls in the Washington Territory. Parker was African American, listed in the 1885 census as “mulatto,” a term which in those days meant someone whose ancestors were both black and white.

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