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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 1, Number 1
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
Sept 09


Welcome to the First Edition of the Genealogy Gazette

Mountain Press is pleased to present this first edition of the Genealogy Gazette. We will be sending this newsletter every month with a different article about how to overcome those "brick walls" in genealogy. This first edition deals with the 1840 Federal Census and all the information that can be learned from it. We will also feature any new materials or books that pertain to the main article. We will have special offers and discounts periodically. If you have any questions or suggestions for future issues please email me at

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press

Is It a Brick Wall?


Everyone has “brick walls” in their research. In many cases, it is because they did not gather all of the information they had in hand from the beginning. Since I started in my teens to do genealogical research, I’ve had to repeat my steps many times. We did not have copy machines, computers, microfilm/fiche readers nor any of the great helps we have today. This meant a lot of mistakes and I copied minimal records at the time.

The 1840 Federal Census is one of those sources we all consult at some point in time. It is too bad most of us stop with looking at the index in the local library and never consult the original microfilm of those records. We strongly urge you to use the printed indices to find your information and then go to the original on microfilm. You may see the name differently and this sometimes helps. Even there, far too many only look at the first page with each pair of pages. This is the one with the name of the head of the household and a series of numbers. We have figured out that those numbers represent someone in that family in a particular age bracket. A great many know that these are the “free white citizens” in the household.

Now to page two of the set. In the majority of cases, this page contains only numbers and occasionally a name with an age after them. One thing that the vast number of researchers do not do is transcribe the entire page. Why would you? Somewhere on that page is another person of interest at some point in your research - the family of a spouse, a cousin, or some other relative. It only takes a few minutes to do it right the first time through. If your name appears in the top or bottom ten on the page, then transcribe an equal number on the proceeding page or the next page. A little time spent now will pay off wonderfully later on in your progress.

The first few columns deal with "slaves and free colored persons" [meaning Indians also]. Then we hit the first gold mine - the occupations. There are seven categories for these - mining - agriculture - commerce - manufacturing & trades - ocean navigation - canal, lake, river navigation and finally learned professional & engineers. If you have someone in any of these except agriculture, there should be other records in the area of interest. If you see a number in the area of your person in commerce and manufacturing & trades, they are likely in a community or town. Local history would give more information about these folks. Those listed on canal, lake, river navigation then we are talking about ferry operators, barge workers and steamboat personnel. There are whole volumes of information on these folks as well. Finally, we see the category of “learned professional & engineers”. Usually here are the doctors, lawyers and school teachers. In fact, with this latter group there are later entries along their line with the type of school they teach, the number of students and even if some of them are there with public assistance. Remember that there were no public schools in this day and time - everyone paid. If they are there on public assistance, then the County Court has had to pay for them to attend school. Check the minutes of the county governing body. Remember there are usually scholastic reports held in the county during these days also. Sometimes, the children are named and sometimes only their parents.

We have bypassed the personal records of those in the household who are "deaf, blind or idiotic" [a word they liked to use a lot]. Sometimes you might find at a later date county records for these persons if they become a ward of the court. Just because there is just a number, it does not mean the end of your search. Just stop and think for a moment, what does that number represent - blind, for example, may mean the person was later put in a school for the blind. There are few in each state, so you might have to check the records of a couple of them. There is more here than we first suspect.

Now, lets look at the Pensioner. The 1840 Census listed those who fought in the American Revolutionary or the War of 1812 primarily. We can usually tell which by the age given. If the name is the same as the one on page one, we can assume this census entry is for his family. In many cases, however, the names do not match. What do we have in that case? Most likely he is the father-in-law or father of the wife. If the name shares the last name, then this could be the father of the head of the house. This can lead us into other records like the marriage records, wills and death records for a later period or even military records. One does have to remember that at this time period, most of the records are militia records and that they are not as well kept as the professional military records.

If you choose to transcribe these records - DO NOT miss a single mark. Down the road, you will have to do this over again and you will kick yourself for not doing it right in the first place.

We would be happy to send you a copy of the form for transcribing the 1840 census or we will enclose a copy with every order placed during the month of September.


Happy Hunting!!!!

1840 Virginia Census for the Mountain Empire

268 Pages, 8.5"x11", Full Name Index, VA-0667, Softcover: $75.00; Hardcover: $90.00

This hefty 268-page volume contains the 1840 Census for the sixteen counties in southwestern Virginia that are collectively called the Mountain Empire. They include: Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Henry, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wythe.

Like many other census records, the 1840 Census of the United States makes Researchers want to cry and shout for joy at the same time. Do you think it lists only the name of the 'head of the household'? Look a little further and you'll find:

* Names and ages of 'Pensioners'. [Soldiers or widows who received a government pension for their time in service.]
* Occupation of 'Head of Household' [Mining, Agriculture, Commerce, Manufacturing, "Learned Professional Engineers," etc.]
* Groupings of Slaves
* Free Persons of Color
* Total Number of Individuals Living In a Household Including Slaves
* Number of individuals living in the household. [Not always children, wives, etc. These might be relative, friends or, in some cases, bound persons.]
* Those in the household that are blind, deaf, or dumb and if on 'public claim*'status. [* County assuming responsibility for care and expenses]
School records: Number of scholars enrolled under a teacher and number of scholars 'at public claim'.

Click here for examples and surnames.

1840 Census for Tennessee and Virginia Counties

We have many 1840 Census for particular Tennessee and Virginia counties. Please just click on Tennessee or Virginia to search your particular county of interest.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at