I had the pleasure of attending a class yesterday at the National Archives in Washington, DC titled: Beyond the Basics: Census, 1790–1840. The Archives offers various genealogy classes each week and I thought this would be a great topic. I hadn’t given the 1790-1840 Censuses much attention before now.
Well, I learned a lot!
1840 Census School Data
At the end (or sometimes beginning) of each township census, there is a page that lists data on schools in the area. Data includes how many universities or colleges, number of students, academies and grammar schools, number of scholars, primary and common schools, number of scholars at public charge, and number of white persons over 20 years of age to each family who cannot read and write. Was there someone in the family household that was attending school? Compare them with the total students in that township. Did your ancestors grow up in a town with many schools, but did not attend themselves, or vise versa?
1820 Census Age Overlap
The 1820 Census lists males that are ages 16-18 and also 16-25. If you have 2 males ages 16-18 and 4 males 16-25, then you probably have 2 males ages 19-25. The government wanted a category that listed the total number of males of “military age.” I had completely overlooked this before.
Helpful Tip – List the names associated with each age group
For example, the 1820 Census has Fergus Hutchinson (4th great grandfather) listed as the head of the household in Donegal Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania. He was 21 years old, not yet married, but many people living in the house. I didn’t take the time to investigate this until yesterday. An easy way to sort through these earlier records is write out the names of each number. I realized that both parents had passed away already, so Fergus being the oldest was the head of the household with his 8 younger siblings.
Males < 10 years old (1) = William Moorhead
Males 16-18 years old (2) = George and John
Males 16-25 years old (4) = Fergus (head of the household) and an unknown male – remember the overlap with the 16-18 year category.
Females < 10 years old (2) = Matilda and Ann
Females 10-15 years old (2) = Maria and Euphemia
Females 16-25 years old (1) = Sarah Jane
Number of Persons Engaged in Agriculture (6)
After mapping it out, I’m pretty confident that this is “my” Fergus Hutchinson. Everyone is accounted for except that unknown male, and no one is missing. I actually didn’t know Euphemia’s birthday, but through process of elimination, I now know it’s between 1810 and 1815.
Writing out the names for each is very helpful, especially if you have a common first and last name that shows up multiple times in one county.
Records of the 1820 Census of Manufacturers
The 1820 Census asks how many people in the household engaged in either agriculture, commerce, or manufacturing. A separate census was taken if someone was engaged in manufacturing. The information gathered was the name of the manufacturer, the type of manufacturing, location of manufacturer, and information on the kind of raw materials, persons employed, machinery, expenditures, and production.
The idea of collecting data from manufacturers had actually started with the 1810 census, but because enumerators were not given any guidelines, the amount of information and quality was very inconsistent.
The Records of the 1820 Census of Manufacturing cannot be found on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.com. As far as I know, you must go to the National Archives in DC or order the microfilm. Do you have any ancestors that were manufacturers? I’m interested to see what the records actually look like!
Use HeritageQuest to Find Census Records
“If you rely on one source, you will not find everything you need” said the NARA instructor. According to her, Ancestry.com outsourced their earlier indexing to people that did not speak English very well. Those that indexed at HeritageQuest were genealogists and English speakers. I have no proof of this and can’t find any data online, but through her many years of experience, she has found less transcription errors on HeritageQuest. We should use both and form our own opinion. I see pros and cons to both: HeritageQuest groups your search results in a less cluttered manner while Ancestry.com accounts for name misspellings giving you a larger search results range. I’ll definitely start using them simultaneously. Examples of HeritageQuest:
Keywords: Updegraff, 1790 Census, Pennsylvania
Results: There were 11 households with the name Updegraff in Pennsylvania in 1790, all in York County (There are probably more if you take into account spelling variations- you can use Ancestry.com to cross reference).
These are the 11 Updegraff households (Harman is my 5th great grandfather):
Foreigners Not Naturalized
The 1820 and 1830 Censuses reported the number of people in the household that were not naturalized. This may give some direction in looking for naturalization records. In 1802, the residency requirement for naturalization was changed from 14 to 5 years. The 14 year rule was part of John Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. An alien was required to file a declaration of intent (usually the first 3 years of residency) and then may petition the court for admission to citizenship (2-7 years after declaration) a total of 5 years after being a resident. If your ancestor was an alien in 1820, you may want to search for naturalization records for 1821-1826. These documents could be filed at any court office – local, state, or federal, wherever it was convenient. Unfortunately, many of these courts did not hold on to the records, but it’s worth making a couple calls to these various locations to check if they have them still.
Sources for Census Records
- Microfilm and book indexes at the National Archives
- Microfilm at your local library
- Fold3.com (very limited)
I will definitely be attending more classes at the National Archives! It’s just amazing how many resources are out there.
Thanks for sharing this information about the early census records. I was disappointed just now to find that Heritage Quest is not available to the general public. Oh, well.
HeritageQuest can be easy to get to (depending on your library). I am a member of the City of Alexandria Library and all I have to do is go to the library homepage, click on “online databases” enter in my library card number and voila! I can also access HeritageQuest by going to the District of Columbia library website, following the links for genealogy, then HeritageQuest, then entering my DC library card number. You do need a library card, but don’t necessarily need to be at the library to access HeritageQuest. It’s definitely worth getting access to.