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Census schedules go beyond population counts

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:57 PM

Editor's note: In celebration of the release of the 1940 census, this Heritage Hunting column over the past few weeks has concentrated on the genealogical values and pitfalls of using all census records. This is the final column in that series.

When you hear "the census," what people usually are talking about is one of the population schedules. These are the records created for the purpose of determining representation in Congress and used frequently by genealogists to track their ancestors through generations and migrations.

Non-population schedules also can be very valuable under specific circumstances. These enumerations include schedules for slaves, mortality, industry, agriculture, and defective-dependent-delinquent classes (which include insane, idiots, deaf mutes, blind, homeless children, inhabitants in prison and pauper/indigents).

Agriculture schedules (available for 1850 to 1880) provide information on each American farm, including the owner, number of improved and unimproved areas, cash value of the farm, livestock, kinds and amounts of crops grown, number of eggs the hens laid and other tidbits. They are a great source for peeking into the day-to-day lives of farmer relatives.

Similarly the manufacturing schedules (1820 and 1850 to 1880 for operations of more than $500) report the name of the manufacturer, types of business or produce, capital investments, kinds and value of raw product, and quantities and value of product produced.

These two schedules are not indexed but closely follow the listing in the population schedule, so it is fairly easy to find someone. Keep in mind that ancestors might be on both schedules.

Mortality schedules (taken 1850 to 1880) recorded those who had died in the year preceding the population schedule. For example, the population count for the 1860 census was taken on June 1, 1860. The mortality schedule would include anyone who died between June 1, 1859, and May 31, 1860.

Details included name, age, sex, marital status (married or widowed), state or country of birth, month of death, occupation, cause of death and length of illness. They are great substitutes in areas that did not have death certificates for the time periods.

Some of the non-population schedules are searchable online at Ancestry (www.ancestry.com). To see what is available on this site, select "Search" from the menu bar on the homepage. You'll then see "Census and Voter Lists" in the dropdown menu.

On the next page, look for the "Narrow by Category" box in the right column, and then select "U.S. Federal Census Collection." On the next page, look on the left below the search box and you'll see a list of included data collections.

Before you try a search for your ancestors, take the time to click on each of the special schedules and thoroughly read what records they include.

Finding these non-population schedules that have not been digitized by Ancestry can be a challenge. Some are available at the National Archives and some are available through individual state archives. Go to http://www.archives.gov/research/census/nonpopulation/index.html#where and click on the desired state from the table under Part 3 to see what schedules exist for your area and where they are located.


Sharon Tate Moody is a board-certified genealogist. Send your genealogy questions and event announcements to her in care of Baylife, The Tampa Tribune, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa, FL 33606 or stmoody0720@mac.com. She regrets that she is unable to assist with personal research and cannot respond to requests for locating or researching specific individuals.
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