What The Census Tells Us About Gloucester In 1850
by Ann Earl
There were significant changes in the seventh census of the United States
taken in 1850 which are of great benefit to genealogists today searching
for their ancestors who lived during that time. This was the first census
to list every member of the household and not just the head of the
household as previously done. The number of questions asked was also
expanded, providing more information about each person.
There were six census schedules in 1850: free inhabitants; slave;
mortality (those who died within previous year); agriculture;
manufacturing; and social statistics. Thus, we can obtain from census
publications a statistical portrait of a county as well as a listing of
all the people.
The population schedules of the seventh census (1850) listing all the free
inhabitants in Gloucester County, VA are available on microfilm at the
Gloucester Public Library, Main Street, Gloucester. Mr. Cyrus Rilee, Jr.
has compiled and edited these schedules and published them in book form
The 1850 Census of the 4,952 Free Inhabitants of Gloucester County
The paper format plus a surname index make this a very helpful reference.
It, too, is available at the Gloucester Public Library.
The 1850 census population schedules of free inhabitants are arranged by
dwelling number in order of visitation by the enumerator and then family
number in order of visitation is given. For each person, we can learn:
name; age; sex; color; profession, occupation, or trade of each male over
15; value of real estate owned; place of birth naming state, territory or
country; whether married within the year; in school within the year;
persons over 20 unable to read and write; and if deaf and dumb, blind,
insane, idiot, pauper or convict.
The Seventh Census of the United States: 1850. Embracing a statistical
view of each of the states and territories, arranged by counties
. . . was published and in 1854,
Statistical view of the the United States embracing its territory,
population . . . being a compendium of the seventh census . . .
was published. These volumes are available in the Old Dominion University
Library and provide excellent statistical tables down to the county level
for information derived from the census.
The total population of Gloucester in 1850 was 10,527, a decrease from the
total population in 1840 of 10,715. In 1850, there were 2,173 males and
2,117 females for a total white population of 4,290. The free colored
population numbered 680 with 345 males and 335 females. There were 5,557
slaves: 2,784 males and 2,773 females.
Statistical tables are available with age groups by color and sex. For
example, there were 5 male and 3 female slaves between 90 and 100 years
old and 1 female and 3 male slaves over 100 in Gloucester in 1850. The
free colored population had 2 females between 90 and 100 and none over
100. There was 1 white male between 90 and 100 and no whites over 100.
There was 1 white female listed as age unknown. By looking at the
population schedules for Gloucester, I learned that Rosa Gregory and Grace
Peyton were both 95 years old when the census was taken and the following
were listed as 1 day old: John W. Bailey, Lucy F. Davenport and Mildred
Most free inhabitants in Gloucester were born in Virginia but 75 were born
in the United States outside Virginia and 10 were born in foreign
In Gloucester during the year ending June 1, 1850, 312 births were
reported to the census, divided evenly with 156 births to white and free
colored population and 156 births to slave population. 38 marriages of
whites were reported. 303 deaths were reported: 145 to white and free
colored population and 158 to slave population.
In 1850 in Gloucester, the white and free colored population consisted of
1,006 families with 1,000 dwellings. There were 12 public schools with 13
teachers and 253 pupils. There were 7 academies and other schools with 7
teachers and 95 pupils. Families reported that 517 whites attended
schools during the year: 274 males and 243 females. 1,007 free
inhabitants could not read and write: 833 white (376 males, 457 females)
and 174 free colored (91 males, 83 females).
There were 14 churches in Gloucester in 1850 with a seating capacity of
5,700 and a total value of $12,835. Of these, 8 were Methodist, 4 were
Baptist and 2 were Episcopal.
Gloucester had 573 farms in 1850 composed of 64,515 improved acres and
60,111 unimproved acres of land. The value of farms was $1,526,584 with
farming implements and machinery valued at $52,810 for a total value of
$1,579,394. From the population schedules, I found that John Tabb, a 65
year old farmer, had the highest value of real estate owned at that time
by any person in the county. His was listed at $158,000.
The value of livestock on farms in Gloucester in 1850 was $214,868 and the
value of animals slaughtered was $70,817. There were 1,010 horses; 247
asses and mules; 1,716 milk cows; 1,933 working oxen; 3,378 other
cattle; 4,109 sheep; and 14,213 swine.
During the year ending June 1, 1850, Gloucester farms produced 65,551
bushels wheat; 57 bushels rye; 336,063 bushels Indian corn; 37,069 bushels
oats; 575 pounds tobacco; 62 bales ginned cotton; 11,934 pounds wool;
7,057 bushels peas and beans; 10,696 bushels Irish potatoes; 19,967
bushels sweet potatoes; 795 bushels barley; $228 value of orchard
products; 63,588 pounds butter; 4,095 tons hay; 354 pounds hops; and 1,480
pounds beeswax and honey.
Manufacturing establishments in Gloucester in 1850 employed 120 hands, had
a capital of $58,010 and an annual product of $108,278. The value of
homemade manufactures that year was $29,104.
The 1850 census is a very valuable genealogical research source. First,
locate your family on the population schedules and obtain all the data
available there. Then look at the other schedules and statistical tables
generated by all schedules. When writing a family history, it is
important to locate your ancestor in the time and place where they lived.
The census publications can assist you in doing this.