In March 1849, Congress enacted a bill establishing a census board whose membership consisted of the secretary of state, the attorney general, and the postmaster general. The law authorized this board to prepare and cause to be printed such forms and schedules as may be necessary for the full enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States; it also authorized the board to prepare forms and schedules for collecting information on mines, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, education, and other topics, as well as "exhibit a full view of the pursuits, industry, education, and resources of the country."
The seventh census was governed by the provisions of an act of May 23, 1850 that directed that six schedules be used to collect the information requested by the Congress. The act directed enumerators to return their results to the secretary of the interior by November 1, 1850.
The United States Census of 1850 was the seventh census of the United States. Conducted by the Census Office on June 1, 1850 determined the resident population of the United States to be 23,191,876 — an increase of 35.9 percent over the 17,069,453 persons enumerated during the 1840 Census. The total population included 3,204,313 slaves.
This was the first census where there was an attempt to collect information about every member of every household, including women, children, and slaves. Prior to 1850, census records had recorded only the name of the head of the household and broad statistical accounting of other household members (three children under age five, one woman between the age of 35 and 40, etc.). It was also the first census to ask about place of birth
The number of population inquiries grew in the 1850 census. Every free person's name was to be listed, not just the head of the household. The marshals also collected additional "social statistics," including information on taxes, schools, crime, wages, value of the estate, etc. and data on mortality.
Each marshal was also responsible for subdividing his district into "known civil divisions," such as counties, townships, or wards, and ensuring that his assistants' returns were completed properly.