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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 titled The 1850 Census of the 4,952 Free Inhabitants of Gloucester County Virginia.  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.

In 1853, 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 E. Templeman.

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 countries.

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.

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Last Updated  Friday, 30 January 2004 06:20 PM