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OVERVIEW OF THE CENSUS FOR THE TOWN OF MARCELLUS
Submitted by John Curtin

     The Marcellus Historical Society has recently completed a project that involved a recording of all census records, both federal and state, for the Town of Marcellus for the entire 19th century.  What has been transferred to this site is an index of those census records.  For more specific information regarding census information, please contact the Marcellus Historical Society, P.O. Box 165, Marcellus, NY 13108, or e-mail John Curtin (jcurtin2@twcny.rr.com).

     The first United States census was taken in 1790 as a result of a constitutional provision which called for a count of the population and a census has been taken every ten years since then - the last in 1990.
 In New York, several counts of the population were taken for various purposes before the American Revolution.  Since independence, New York State has taken electoral censuses in 1795, 1801, 1807, 1814, and 1821, in accordance with the requirements of the State constitution of 1777.  With the State constitution of 1821, additional censuses were authorized in 1825, 1835, and 1845.  The State constitution of 1846 called for a census in 1855, 1865, and 1875.  In 1885 and 1895 no census was taken, and in 1902 merely a count of the population was made.  A New York State census was taken in 1905, 1915 and a final state census was taken in 1925.
 The original federal census schedules (which still exist - there are some parts missing) are kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., but microfilm copies of the unrestricted schedules are available at most major libraries in the United States.  Recent census schedules (less than 72 years old) are restricted to protect the privacy of the living.  The most recent schedule available for public inspection is that of 1920.  There are some parts of the decennial population censuses missing, for various reasons.  The burning of Washington D.C. by the British in 1812 may have destroyed some of the missing early census records, and a disastrous fire in 1921 at the Commerce Department destroyed most of the 1890 census.

     Of those that exist, the originals of the New York State Census Records are preserved in the New York State Library in Albany.  Unfortunately the original returns for 1825, 1835, and 1845 have been lost.

     The first Federal Census of the United States was in 1790, but Marcellus was the hunting and fishing grounds for the Onondaga Native Americans and uninhabited at that time. It was not until 1800 that the first census of the Town of Marcellus was done.  It, however, along with the next four census schedules of the United States (1810, 1820, 1830 and 1840) have some limited use.  In these census schedules, only the heads of households were mentioned by name, and complete families were not enumerated until the Census of 1850.  The same is true of the New York State census records - in the early years, only the names of heads of families is listed.  It was not until the Federal Census of 1850 and the New York State Census of 1855 that more information became common.

     The census records that the Marcellus Historical Society has now completed include the following:
     A. 1800 - the first census for Marcellus was in 1800 and it recorded 1109 inhabitants, although New York State recorded 909 persons in 1800.  It is not known why this discrepancy exists.
     B. 1810 - by this date, the population of Marcellus soared to 4725 persons as people began moving west in the early years of the century.
     C. 1820 - the census for this year lists 6503 persons, reflecting more growth in the Town of Marcellus.
     D. 1830 - showed a very significant drop in population, recording 2626 people as inhabitants.  This reflected not only the movement west that occurred at this time in United States history, but also the fact that the Town of Marcellus, one of the five original towns in the County of Onondaga, was broken up into other towns and that population was subtracted from the total.
     E. 1840 - showed an increase of just ten people in ten years, and only 2726 persons were enumerated
     F. 1850 - beginning in this year, the Federal Census Schedules begin to enumerate complete households and there is much more information available, including age, occupation and place of birth.  Again, the population did not increase significantly.   2759 persons were listed in this census
     G. 1855 - is a New York State Census, and it gives much information.  It not only enumerates complete households, but a person's status in the household, age, occupation, place of birth, the number of years living in the Town of Marcellus, and sometimes other information (e.g. married or widowed).  This census divides the Town of Marcellus into its two election districts.  Also contained in the census record is a summary sheet for the Town of Marcellus.  It is six pages in length and provides some interesting data/statistics about the Town of Marcellus, including total population of 2547 (380 of whom lived in the newly- incorporated, 1853, Village of Marcellus), and 406 of that number were of foreign birth.  Subsequent population figures from 1860 to 1900 show an even greater number of people of foreign birth, but the total population for the town did not increase appreciably in these years.  Apparently, those of foreign birth replaced many Marcellians who travelled west in these years of expansion across the United States.
     H. 1860 - the federal census for this year  recorded 2908 inhabitants, and this was the highest figure since 1825.  The population would decline for much of the rest of the century, and it would not be until 1915 that the population of the Town of Marcellus would surpass that of 1860.
     I. 1865 -  the NYS census for this year contains a great deal of information, particularly as it involves Marcellus' participation in the American Civil War.  In 1865, the population of the Town of Marcellus had 2577 inhabitants, which is a rather steep decline in just 10 years.  The census divides the Town of Marcellus into two election districts, with the village residents, who numbered 418, included in the first election district.
     J. 1870 - the population of the Town of Marcellus was 2337 inhabitants, according to the census.  In the Village of Marcellus, incorporated in 1853, there were 428 residents in 1870.
     K. 1875 - the population of the Town of Marcellus had 2499 inhabitants, which is a  decline of over 500 in just 10 years.  There are a number of reasons for this including the fact that many Marcellians moved west after the American Civil War.  There were  439 Marcellus Village residents in 1875.  There were 88 households in the village, consisting of 110 families.
The census divides the Town of Marcellus into two election districts.  The census of 1875 contains information that is similar to that of 1865.
     L. 1880 -  the population of the Town of Marcellus had 2677 inhabitants, which is an increase of almost 200 from that in 1875.  This may reflect the fact that the community of Marcellus was experiencing an industrial growth (woolen mills) at the time, attracting many job seekers, including native-borns and immigrants from Ireland, England and Scotland. There were  489 Marcellus Village residents in 1880, consisting of 97 households and 116 families. The census divides the Town of Marcellus into two election districts.  The Census of 1880 also records the Village of Marietta in the Town of Marcellus counting 145 inhabitants and consisting of 34 households and 35 families in the same.  The census of 1880 contains information that is similar to that of 1870.
     M. 1892 - the NYS Census for this year is especially valuable for New Yorkers since the Federal Census of 1890 was almost totally destroyed by fire.   It enumerates entire households, and records sex, age, place of birth and occupation.  This census divides the Town of Marcellus into three election districts, and the total population is listed as 2636.
     N. 1900 - the recorded population for the Town of Marcellus in this year was 2581 inhabitants, with 589 of that number living in the Village of Marcellus proper.  The Schedule for the year 1900, which is the twelfth census of the United States, contains a great deal of information, and divides the Town of Marcellus into three election districts.  In each of the election districts, there are 29 columns of information about each individual, including family name, relationship, color, sex, birth (month and year), age, whether single, married, widowed or divorced, number of years married, number of children each mother had, number of children alive at the time, place of birth (state or country), birthplace of father and of mother, year of immigration, whether citizen (naturalized or unnaturalized) or alien, type of occupation, number of months unemployed in last year, number of months a child was in school in last year, whether individual can read, write and/or speak English language, whether home or farm is owned or rented, and whether property is owned free or mortgaged.

     Again, what has been transferred to this site is an index of those census records, not the actual census records.  For more specific information regarding census information, please contact the Marcellus Historical Society, P.O. Box 165, Marcellus, NY 13108, or e-mail John Curtin (jcurtin2@twcny.rr.com).

Submitted 4 April 1998
Updated 3 January 2000