Genealogy Research

Back to Genealogy Basics – The 1800 Census Records

 Part 1

Today we are going to talk about the 1800 census records. Like the 1900 census records, the 1800 census records are often a first go-to record. Back through the 1850 census, each individual of a household is listed. This is a great for the you as a genealogist.

Today we are going to talk about the 1800 census records. Like the 1900 census records, the 1800 census records are often a first go-to record.  Back through the 1850 census, each individual of a household is listed.  This is a great for the you as a genealogist.

Beginning with the 1840 census and progressing back through the 1790 census (the first federal census), on the head of the household was named.  Typically this was a male; however, your female ancestor may be named if she represented the head of household. Other members of the household, including slaves, were noted as tick marks in specific age groups. Determining if you ancestor is among the tick marks in the columns, is not always easy, but utilizing your math skills you can identify families within these early census records. Read about the instructions given to the census takers for taking the census records.

Prior to the 1870 census record, African-Americans in slavery were not listed by names in the census records. In 1800 and 1810, slaves were noted in a specific column.  In the 1820 census, male slaves and female slaves were separated out as well as free colored males and free colored females.  By 1830, free colored persons and slaves were separated out into age groups.

A Closer Look – The 1850 Census

Page from the 1850 US Census records for Moore County, NC

Just as the 1900 census records, these 1800 census records provide a wealth of genealogical information.  Importantly, these records place our ancestors in a specific time and place within history. Importantly, the census records also provide clues that lead to other records.  This is crucial information as you research and seek to learn more about your ancestors. The specific questions and amount of information asked on each census year vary, but from the 1850’s forward, you can find information on the following:

  • Name, Head of household is listed first
  • Town, county, state and specific date for you ancestor.
  • Age/birth date – From the person’s age, a birth date can be estimated.
  • Race – Listed as white, black or mulatto.  This was based on the census taker’s visual assessment.
  • Household Members – Each member of the household is listed.
  • Place of birth – Provides a location to look for further ancestral records
  • Value of Real Estate – This can indicate of a person owned their land/home. If so,  search out the deeds for more information.
  • Marriage – Was your ancestor married? Divorced? Widowed? Look for marriage, divorce or death records. The 1850 census has a column asking if a couple was married within the past year.  If a person was, then you can narrow down the marriage date.
  • “Condition” – The last column of the 1850 census indicates if an individual was deaf, dumb, blind, insane, a pauper, or a convict.  This information can lead to further records sources such as jail records, and indigent records.
  • FAN club – Friends, Acquaintances, and Neighbors.  Make note of who resides around your ancestor in the census records.  Read the census records 4-5 pages forward and backward from your ancestor. These individuals are likely  to have interacted the most with your ancestors.  You may find your ancestors mentioned in their records.

 Example from the 1850 Census

Excerpt for the 1850 US Census entry for George Howard family

This example is from the 1850 census from Moore County, North Carolina.

  • Name – George Howard is the head of the household
  • Location – Moore County, North Carolina.  
  • Age/birth date – George Howard is 58 years old providing a birth date of approximately 1792.
  • Race – This census taker did not provide the race of the citizens he surveyed. This is an example of the census taker being human and not following all of the guidelines.
  • Household Members – George Howard’s household includes Elizabeth (age 59), Utilda (age 23), Susan (age 22), Caswell S. (age 20), Elizabeth (age 18), and Julia (age 16).
  • Place of birth – George and all of his household members were born in North Carolina.  This places George’s parents in North Carolina at least by 1792.
  • Value of Real Estate – George’s real estate is valued at $282.  This indicates George owned land and a deed should be sought.
  • Occupation – George was a farmer as was his son Caswell.
  • Marriage – Elizabeth (age 59) is presumed to be the wife of George based on the ages of the other household members.
  • “Condition” – No one in the family is listed as insane, blind, dumb, a pauper or in jail.
  • FAN club – Friends, Acquaintances, and Neighbors.  Neighbors of the Howards include Yarborough, Thomas and Kelly families.  [Further research shows all three of these families interacted with the Howard family.]

To be continued……..

We will take a closer look at an example of the 1840 census record in the next post.

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