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Essex, Mass. - Census

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1820 Federal Census, Essex, Mass.

Kurt Wilhelm, March 2002

  1. Description of the census
  2. The Population of Essex in 1820
    1. Total population
    2. Population by age, sex, and race
      Table 1. The population of Essex by age group and sex
    3. Census by business activity
    4. Population by surname and family size
      Table 2. Surnames found in Essex
  3. References
  4. Transcription of 1820 Federal Census of Essex, Mass.

1. Description of the census

Essex, formerly a part of Ipswich known as Chebacco Parish, incorporated as a town on 19 February 1819. The federal census of 1820 was the first census of Essex, Essex County, Massachusetts. This 1820 census is a baseline for comparison of future demographic changes within Essex. Another important use of the census is to help reconstruct family relationships, since there is no record of most of the births for early 19th century Essex/ Chebacco. For those who live near Essex, microfilm copies of the census records can be found locally at the Gloucester public library, the Lynnfield library, and the National Archives Center in Waltham1.

The census sheets which were used in Essex only had columns for white males and females. The general census of the U. S. also had columns for "free colored" and "foreigner not naturalized." For each head of family, males and females were enumerated by age group. The age groups were under 10, 10 to 16, 16 to 26, 26 to 45, and 45 and over. In addition, there was another column for males 16 to 18. The pages for Essex list the age groups as: to 10, to 16, to 18, to 26, to 45, and over 45.

The names are arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the surname. For instance, although all surnames beginning with 'B' are together, Butler, Butman and Bowers will be found interspersed with the Burnhams. The arrangement of names is similar to that found in the tax lists of the time2. The census list contains many more names (heads of households) than are found on the tax list. However, some names appear on the tax lists which do not appear in the census.

There are no page totals on the census sheets, but they are included here in the transcription to indicate page breaks. The total population of the town, by sex and age group, is found on page 184 of the census.

2. The Population of Essex in 1820

a. Total population

The total population, as determined by adding up each page and not including males aged from 16 to 18, is 1,102. The total population given in the census is 1,0992. The total published population is 1,1073.

b. Population by age, sex, and race

The total population is evenly divided between males and females (Table 1). There are two differences between census totals by age group and sex given on page 184 of the census, and that found by adding up the marks after each name in the census. On page 184 the total number of females to age 45 is given as 114, and the total number of females over 45 is given as 95. Adding the marks in each column gives 112 to age 45, and 116 females over 45. This accounts for the difference in the total population. Included in Table 1 are 16 males aged 16 to 18.

The lack of "free colored" or "foreigner not naturalized" columns do not necessarily indicate that people of either group did not reside in Essex.

Table 1. The population of Essex by age group and sex.

TO 10 148 118 266
TO 16 105 98 203
TO 26 106 113 219
TO 45 93 112 205
OVER 45 93 116 209
TOTAL 545 557 1,102

c. Census by business activity

The census taker was asked to indicate business activity as Agriculture, Commerce, or Manufactures. The column for Commerce has no marks. With one exception, whenever either Agriculture or Manufacturing is marked it is only marked with a one (1). This seems to mean that those marked are probably owner/operators, and not just those employed in those activities. The household headed by William Andrews has 2 in the Agriculture column. The total involved in agriculture is 57, and the total in manufacturing is 26. Manufacturing includes shipbuilding, ropemaking, and mill operation. As a percentage of the number of households, agriculture accounted for 29%, manufacture for 13%, and 58% of the households were not characterized by business activity.

d. Population by surname and family size

No titles, such as Capt. Mr., or Rev., are used in the list of names. Suffixes are used to distinguish individuals. They include: Jun., 2d, 3d, and 4th. The squiggle after the "J" in Jun. is nearly illegible. It may read Jr., Jn., or Jun.

There are 43 distinct surnames in the census (Table 2). Of those surnames, 22 appear once as the head of a household, 11 appear twice, 1 appears three times, 3 appear four times, and the other six surnames appear eight or more times each. The six most commonly found names, and the number of times they are listed are: Burnham-53, Andrews-29, Low-18, Story-17, Choate-11, and Cogwell-9.

Of the 196 households listed, more than 25% are headed by someone named Burnham. The families of Burnham, Andrews, Low and Story account for 60% of the households listed (58% of population). In determining the number of people in each household, it is important to remember that males aged 16 to 18 are also included with those age 16 to 26.

In 1820, only two people lived alone. They were Mary Andrews and Hannah Andrews. Sixteen of the households (8.2%) were occupied by two people. Two households contained more than eleven people. The household with the greatest number of people was that of Abraham Perkins, who headed a household of 15. Elias Andrews headed a household of twelve.

The average household size was 5.6 people per household. However, the most frequent household size was four (33 households, or 17% of the households), and the largest proportion of the population lived in a household of seven (154 people, or 14% of the population).

Females headed 28 (14%) of the households.

Table 2. Surnames found in Essex with the number of heads of families, the total number in the households, the number operating Agricultural businesses, and the number operating Manufacturing businesses.

Surname HDS Total AGR MFG Surname HDS Total AGR MFG
Allen 1 7     Holmes 1 10   1
Andrews 29 166 7 1 Jones 1 3    
Bowers 1 7     Knowlton 1 11 1  
Boyd 2 12     Lakeman 1 6   1
Burnham 53 292 12 8 Low 18 85 7 2
Butler 2 15 1   Lufkin 4 19 2  
Butman 1 7     Marshall 2 12    
Choate 11 65 6 2 McKenzie 1 7    
Cogswell 9 57 5   Mears 2 10   1
Crawley 1 3     Norton 1 8 1  
Croft 1 3     Nutter 1 7    
Dexter 1 6     Percival 1 3    
Dodge 2 13 1   Perkins 4 37 3 1
Emerton 2 6     Pierce 1 3    
Eveleth 4 22 1   Proctor 2 20 1 1
Foster 2 7     Poland 2 9    
Giddings 1 9 1   Quimby 1 6    
Goodhue 2 8   2 Rust 1 3    
Groton 3 13 2   Ross 1 4    
Hardy 1 9 1   Story 17 93 4 5
Harlow 2 11   1 Whitehouse 1 3    
Haskell 1 9 1   43 NAMES 196 1102 57 26

3. References

  1. 1820 Federal census, microfilm roll M33-49, p. 184, 218-223.
  2. Wilhelm, K. A. 1995. Transcription of the 1820 Essex Tax List.
  3. Vital Records of Essex, Massachusetts to the end of the year 1849. 1908. The Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.

4. Transcription of 1820 Federal Census of Essex, Mass.

Copyright 2006, 2010 by Kurt A. Wilhelm