Clues in Census Records, 1850-1930

Updated December 2, 2002

Experienced genealogical researchers use clues found in one record to find other records about the same individual. This article describes some of the clues found in census records.

Date of birth

Place of birth

Date of marriage

Number of children

Immigration

Naturalization

Foreign-born parents

Military Service

Real property

Economic data.

Conclusion.

Researchers who use these and other clues in census records will be more successful--and thorough--in their genealogical research.

This essay is adapted from "Clues in Census Records, 1850-1920," The Record, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Jan. 1998): 26-27.

 

Clues in Census Records, 1790-1840

Experienced genealogical researchers use clues found in one record to find other records about the same individual. Although the first six federal decennial censuses taken from 1790 through 1840 contain less data than those taken later, they still contain useful clues that should not be overlooked.

Date of Birth

The 1790-1840 censuses generally named only the head of household but reported the age of each household member in age categories. For example, the 1810 census reported the number of free white males and females in these age categories:

"Under ten years of age"
"Of ten years, and under sixteen"
"Of sixteen, and under twenty-six"
"Of twenty-six, and under forty-five"
"Of forty-five and upwards"

While the age range provided by age categories does not indicate an exact date of birth, it at least gives a "ballpark" figure useful (1) for tracking the head of household from one census to the next, especially if other people have the same name, and (2) for tentatively estimating the composition of the family, which the researcher must confirm from other records.

For example, in 1810, the household of Alexander Tackles of Warsaw, Genesee Co., NY, consisted of two males age 16-26 (sons Alexander Jr. and John B.), one male over age 45 (Alexander), one female under age 10 (daughter Sophronia), one female age 16-26 (daughter Polly), and one female over age 45 (wife Philena Howard). The census provided the age ranges of family members; names and exact dates of birth of Alexander's family members were obtained from other records.

The 1840 census reported the name and exact age of Revolutionary War pensioners; examples are given in the next section.

Military Service

The 1840 census asked for the names and ages of "Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services, Included in the Foregoing [Household]." Pensioners included both veterans and widows. For example, veteran Alexander Tackels, aged 85, was enumerated in the household of Jonathan Arnold in Middlebury, Genesee (now Wyoming) Co., NY, and the widow Chloe McCullar, aged 81 1/2, was enumerated in the household of W.W. Blake in St. Albans Township, Licking Co., OH.

This clue should lead the researcher to Revolutionary War military service and pension records. The pension files, which are especially useful, have been reproduced in NARA microfilm publication M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (2,670 rolls). Military service records are also available on microfilm; for more information see listings for Record Group 93, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records, in Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996), which is available online or for purchase.

Since elderly persons usually resided with kinfolk, the pensioners' presence in these households should be a clue that the pensioner may be related to someone in the household. For example, William W. Blake's wife's maiden name was Nancy McCullar; she was one of Chloe McCullar's children.

Immigration and Naturalization

The 1820 census reported the number of "Foreigners not naturalized" in each household; the 1830 census reported the number of "ALIENS--Foreigners not naturalized" in each household. For example, the 1820 census for Geauga County, Ohio, reported that these households included aliens:

Name

Number of Aliens

Township

Thomas Ainslee

2

Parkman

Francis Bark

1

Painesville

Francis Billette

3

Painesville

John Graham 2d

1

Perry

Abel Levins

1

Parkman



Although these censuses do not specify which person or persons in the household were aliens, this clue should alert the researcher (1) to search for known household members in immigration records, (2) to be alert to clues in other records that point to the suspected immigrant's possible foreign origins, and (3) to search for possible later naturalization records for the suspected immigrant. Unfortunately, however, there are relatively few ship passenger lists (immigration records) before January 1, 1820, when the Federal Government began requiring such lists to be presented to collectors of customs.

Occupation and Economic Data

1810 Census

In 1810, the U.S. marshals and their assistants who took the census were instructed to obtain information about manufacturing. However, since they were not told what questions to ask, the information collected varied widely. For example, Eli Waste of Wilmington, Windham Co., VT, owned one loom that produced the following yards of cloth: 60 woolen, 50 linen, 10 cotton, and 50 mixed fabrics, while James Weston [sic, Westurn] of Orwell, Rutland (now Addison) Co., VT, owned seven sheep, one spinning wheel, and one little spinning wheel that produced 25 yards of woolen cloth and 15 yards of linen cloth.

Clues about livestock may lead to personal property tax records, kept by the county treasurer, county auditor, or equivalent official.

1820 Census

The 1820 census reported the number of persons in each household who engaged in agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing.

If household members engaged in agriculture (i.e., were farmers), the researcher should check for deeds and mortgages in the county recorder's office or equivalent agency, and for real and personal property tax records kept by the county auditor, county treasurer, or equivalent official. Not all farmers owned land or livestock, of course, but it is always worthwhile to check all extant records for the place where a person is known to have lived.

If household members engaged in manufacturing, the researcher should examine NARA microfilm publication M279, Records of the 1820 Census of Manufactures (27 rolls). According to the instructions given the U.S. marshals and their assistants, persons engaged in manufacturing included both (1) both employees in "manufacturing establishments" and (2) "artificers, handicrafts men, and mechanics whose labor is preeminently of the hand, and not upon the field." The manufacturing census schedules in M279 include information about:

Three cautions are in order, however:

First, a person listed as a manufacturer in the population census may not be included in the 1820 manufacturing schedules in M279. For example, M279 contains information about 13 manufacturing establishments in Batavia (now Middlefield), Burton, Chardon, and Parkman Twps., Geauga Co., OH, but the population census lists 60 households in the same townships in which one or more persons were engaged in manufacturing!

Second, a household may include only persons "engaged in agriculture" according to the population census, yet have a manufacturing schedule in M279. For example, M279 includes a manufacturing schedule for a pot and pearl ashery owned by "Ives & Doty" of Parkman Twp., Geauga Co., OH, yet the population census reported Jesse Ives and Asa Doty's households only included persons "engaged in agriculture."

Third, persons who are not listed as head of household in the population census may have a manufacturing schedule in M279. For example, Daniel Earle, Oliver Gavitt, and R.W. Scott are all listedin M279 as manufacturers in Parkman Township, Geauga Co., OH, but are not named as heads of household in the population census anywhere in the county.

1840 Census

The 1840 census reported the number of persons in each household who engaged in mining; agriculture; commerce; manufactures and trades; navigation of the ocean; navigation of canals, lakes, and rivers; and learned professions and engineers. Again, researchers should check land and tax records kept by county officials, especially when the household was engaged in agricultural pursuits.

Conclusion

Experienced genealogical researchers use clues found in one record to locate other records about the same individual. However, it is always best to thoroughly exhaust all extant records for the place where the person is known to have lived, as shown by the above analysis of the surprises found in the 1820 manufacturing schedules for Geauga Co., OH.

This essay is adapted from Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, "Clues in Census Records, 1790-1840," The Record, Vol. 4, No. 5 (May 1998).

 

 

1890 Census

Updated February 28, 2005

On January 10, 1921, a fire in the Commerce Department building, Washington, DC, resulted in the destruction of most of the 1890 census, to the woe of researchers ever since. For more detailed information, see Kellee Blake, "'First in the Path of the Firemen:' The Fate of the 1890 Population Census," Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 64-81 (Spring 1996), Part 1 and Part 2.

Some fragments of the 1890 census did survive, however, and they are very useful to researchers. The surviving parts include:

(1) General population census schedules
(2) Schedules of Union Civil War Veterans or their widows
(3) Oklahoma territorial schedules
(4) List of selected Delaware African-Americans
(5) Statistics of Lutheran congregations
(6) Statistical information for the entire United States

To check which NARA facilities have the microfilm discussed in this article, search the Online Microfilm Catalog. To purchase this microfilm, see How to Obtain Microfilm

(1) General Population Census Schedules. Over 6,160 persons are included in the surviving fragments of the general population census schedules for 10 states and the District of Columbia reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publication M407, Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890 (3 rolls).

Roll 1 includes only Perryville Beat No. 11 and Severe Beat No. 8, Perry Co., Alabama.

Roll 2 includes only Q, R, S, 13th, 14th, 15th, Corcoran, and Riggs Streets, and Johnson Avenue in the District of Columbia.

Roll 3 includes:

         Columbus, Muscogee Co., Georgia

         Mound Twp., McDonough Co., Illinois

         Rockford, Wright Co., Minnesota

         Jersey City, Hudson Co., New Jersey

         Eastchester, Westchester Co., New York

         Brookhaven Twp., Suffolk Co., New York

         Twp. No. 2, Cleveland Co., North Carolina

         South Point Twp. and River Bend Twp., Gaston Co., North Carolina

         Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., Ohio

         Wayne Twp., Clinton Co., Ohio

         Jefferson Twp., Union Co., South Dakota

         Justice Pct. No. 6, Mountain Peak, and Ovilla Pct., Ellis Co., Texas

         Pct. No. 5, Hood Co., Texas

         Kaufman, Kaufman Co., Texas

         Pct. No. 6 and Justice Pct. No. 7, Rusk Co., Texas

         Trinity Town and Pct. No. 2, Trinity Co., TX

These schedules are indexed by National Archives Microfilm Publication M496, Index to the Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890 (2 rolls). Roll 1 contains surnames A through J and Roll 2 contains surnames K through Z. The index is arranged by surname, then by first name.


(2) Schedules of Union Civil War veterans or their widows are reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publiation M123, Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War (118 rolls). The schedules are arranged by state, then by county, and then by locality. Schedules survive for persons on U.S. Navy Vessels or in Navy Yards, Washington, DC, and the following states: Kentucky (part), Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Indian Territories, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Surviving Kentucky schedules are for Adair, Bath, Bell, Boone, Bourbon, Boyd, Boyle, Bracken, Breathitt, Campbell, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Fleming, Floyd, Franklin, Gallatin, Garrard, Grant, Greenup, Harlan, Harrison, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Kenton, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, Mason, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owen, Owsley, Pendleton, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Robertson, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Scott, Wayne, Whitley, Wolfe, and Woodford counties, and for certain Federal, State, and local institutions throughout Kentucky.

These special schedules report the following information: name of the veteran (or if he did not survive, the names of both the widow and her deceased husband); the veteran's rank, company, regiment or vessel, date of enlistment, date of discharge, and length of service in years, months, and days; post office address of each person listed; disability incurred by the veteran; and any additional remarks about the veteran's service. For example, the schedule for Windsor Twp., Ashtabula Co., Ohio, reports that Amos H. King, post office Windsor, Ohio, was a private in Co. K, 105th Ohio Infantry. He enlisted August 10, 1862, was discharged June 24, 1865, for a total of 2 years, 10 months, and 14 days service, and was a prisoner 32 days. Although this census was intended to enumerate Union veterans and their widows, census takers often included Confederates and veterans of earlier wars.

(3) Oklahoma territorial schedules have been reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publication M1811, First Territorial Census for Oklahoma, 1890. (1 roll). The census was taken on and after June 1, 1890. The following information is included for each person enumerated:

  • Name of street or avenue
  • dwelling number in order of visitation
  • surname, first name, and middle name
  • relationship to head of household
  • color
  • gender
  • age at last birthday
  • place of birth (state or country)
  • number of years in the United States
  • length of residence in Oklahoma Territory
  • whether naturalized
  • for soldiers, their company and regiment
  • whether able to read
  • whether able to write

(4) Lists of selected Delaware African-Americans whose names appeared on the 1890 census survived by a quirk of fate, and have been reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publication M1919, List of Selected African Americans from the 1890 and 1900 Federal Population Censuses of Delaware and Related Census Publications "Agriculture in the State of Delaware" (1901) and "Negroes in the United States" (1904) (1 roll). In addition to the lists of selected African Americans from the 1890 and 1900 censuses, this microfilm publication also includes government publications useful to general Delaware and African American historical research.

  • The "1890 List" in this microfilm publication is a roughly alphabetical list of 454 African Americans, noting for each: surname, first name, 1890 Enumeration District (ED) number, 1890 ED description, and occupation.
  • The "1890-1900 Consolidated List" in this microfilm publication is an alphabetized list of the same 454 African Americans, noting for each: surname, first name, 1900 ED number, 1890 ED number, 1890 ED description, and occupation.

(5) Statistics of Lutheran congregations may be useful if you are researching someone who was a member or minister of a Lutheran congregation in 1890. National Archives Microfilm Publication M2073, Statistics of Congregations of Lutheran Synods, 1890 (1 roll) reproduces a list of each Lutheran church or local organization compiled by the Census Office from information submitted by officials of the Lutheran officials. The records are arranged by synod, then by State, then by locality. For each church or local organization, the following information is given in seven columns: (1) town or city, (2) county, (3) name of organization, (4) number or type of church edifice, (5) seating capacity, (6) value of church property, and (7) number of members. The church edifice column indicates the number of buildings used or owned by the church, or the type of building in which the church meets. The type of building used is frequently indicated as "rented," "h" (probably "house"), or "sh" (probably "schoolhouse"). Note that names of ministers or members are not included.

Similar records for other denominations are not extant. However, detailed statistical information about all denominations can be found in Henry K. Carroll, Report on Statistics of Churches in the United States at the Eleventh Census: 1890 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894), which is reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publication T825, Publications of the Bureau of the Census, Roll 34.

(6) Statistical information for the entire United States was compiled and analyzed by the Census Office (later Census Bureau) following the completion of the 1890 census. These voluminous reports have been reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publication T825, Publications of the Bureau of the Census, as follows:

Roll No.

Publication Title & other information

25-26

(Population) Report on population at the 11th Census. 1890. Part I. 1289 pages

26

(Population) Report on population at the 11th Census. 1890. Part II. 1214 pages.

27

(Population) Report on the insane, feeble minded, deaf and blind in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. 857 pages.

27

(Population) Report on crime, pauperism and benevolence in US at the 11th Census, 1890. 476 pages.

27-28

(Population - dependent, defective and delinquent classes; report on crime, pauperism and benevolence in US at the 11th Census, 1890. Part II. 1151 pages.

28

Report on vital and social statistics in US at 11th Census, 1890. Part I: Analysis and rate tables. 1207 pages.

29

Report on vital and social statistics in US at 11th Census, 1890. Part II: Vital statistics. 1293 pages.

29-30

Report on vital & social statistics in US at 11th Census, 1890. Part III: Statistics of death by John S. Billings, MD 1101 pages.

30

Report on vital & social statistics in US at 11th Census, 1890. Part IV: Statistics of death by John S. Billings, MD (Surgeon General, US Army, Expert Special Agent). 1131 pages.

31

Agriculture; irrigation; fisheries (3 reports in one volume) 11th Census, 1890. Vol V. 1065 pages. Statistics of agriculture: 1895 Report on agriculture - irrigation in the western part of the US: 1894 Report on statistics of fisheries: 1894.

31-32

(Manufacturing) Report on manufacturing industries in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol VI, Part I. 1023 pages.

32

(Manufactures) Report on manufacturing industries in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol VI, Part II: Statistics of cities. 889 pages.

32-33

(Manufactures) Report on manufacturing industries in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol VI, Part III: Selected industries. 759 pages.

33

Industry, mineral. Report on mineral industries in US at the 11th census, 1890, by David T. Day, Special Agent. 966 pages.

33

Population & miscellaneous. Report on population and resources of Alaska at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol VIII. 392 pp.

33

Religious bodies. Report on statistics of churches in the US at the 11th Census, 1890, by Henry K. Carroll, Special Agent. Vol IX. 914 pages.

33

Population, Indians. Report on Indians taxed and Indians not taxed in US (except Alaska) at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol X. 947 pages.

33

Insurance. Report on insurance business in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 11, Part 1: Fire, marine and inland insurance by Charles A. Jenney, Special Agent. 1177 pages.

33

Insurance. Report on insurance business in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 11, Part 2: Life insurance by Charles A. Jenney, Special Agent. 498 pages.

36

Real estate mortgages. Report on real estate mortgages in the US at the 11th Census, 1890 by George K. Holmes and John S. Lord, Special Agents. Vol 12. 1037 pages.

36-37

Miscellaneous. Report on farms and homes: proprietorship & indebtedness in US at 11th Census, 1890. Vol 13.

37

Transportation. Report on transportation business in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 14, Part I: Transportation by land.

37

Transportation. Report on transportation business in the US at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 14, Part II: Transportation by water. 545 pages.

38

Report on wealth, debt and taxation at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 15, Part I: Public debt, by J. Kendrick Upton, Special Agent. 940 pages.

38-39

Report on wealth, debt and taxation at the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 15, Part II: Valuation and taxation, by J. Kendrick Upton, Special Agent. 689 pages.

39

Compendium of the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 16, Part I: Population by Robert P. Porter, Superintendent. 1127 pages.

39

Compendium of the 11th Census, 1890. Vol 16, Part II: Vital and social statistics; wealth, debt and taxation; mineral industries, insurance, foreign born population; manufactures. 1117 pages.

40

Compendium of the Eleventh Census, 1890. Part II: Vital and Social Statistics; Educational and Church Statistics; Wealth, Debt, and Taxation; Mineral Industries; Insurance, Foreign Born Population; Manufactures. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894. Pages 631-1064 only.

Compendium of the Eleventh Census, 1890. Part III: Population: State or Territory of Birth, Country of Birth and Citizenship (Analyses Only), Foreign Parentage, Conjugal Condition, Ages, School Attendance, Illiteracy, Can Not Speak English, Occupations, Soldiers and Widows; Agriculture; Manufactures; Fisheries; Transportation; Wealth, Debt, and Taxation; Real Estate Mortgages; Farms and Homes; Indians. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1897. 1150 + vii pages.

Abstract of the Eleventh Census: 1890. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896. 300 + xi pages.

41

Henry Gannett. Statistical Atlas of the United States Based Upon Results of the Eleventh Census. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1898. 174 pages.

Billings, John S., M.D. Vital Statistics of Boston and Philadelphia Covering a Period of Six Years Ending May 31, 1890. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1895. 307 pages.

Billings, John S., M.D. Vital Statistics of the District of Columbia and Baltimore Covering a Period of Six Years Ending May 31, 1890. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1893. 335 pages.

Billings, John S., M.D. Vital Statistics of New York City and Brooklyn Covering a Period of Six Years Ending May 31, 1890. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894. 645 pages.

42

Billings, John S., M.D. Report on the Social Statistics of Cities in the United States at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1895. 202 pages.

Donaldson, Thomas. Extra Census Bulletin. Indians. Eastern Band of Cherokees of North Carolina. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Printing Office, 1892.

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