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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 8, Number 1
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
January 6, 2016
Publisher's Notes
Happy New Year! In this article we discuss some of the surprises you can find in the census. We will continue looking at the interesting points of the census in the next few articles. I really enjoy learning the tidbits about each ancestor that you can find in the census.

It is hard to believe that I have been writing this newsletter for 8 years! While I have written about the census many times, hopefully you might another nugget of information that you previsouly overlooked. You can view a few of my other census articles as well:

Census 1790-1850, Census 1860-1890, Census 1900-1940

As always, we enjoy hearing your comments after each article!

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press

Surprise!! Surprise!! Surprise!! Census Findings
Gomer Pyle is famous for saying this, but it is really true when you take a second look at all of the Federal Census records. I have written about the census many times in prior newsletters but as the New Year begins, it is time to revisit some of the minor points that you might have missed in your research. Hidden in each of the Federal Census issues, there are a few subtle points that are often overlooked. Let’s look at a few of these.
1790 Census - This is the most simple of all the census, therefore, little is to be overlooked. You just have to remember that there were only two major points made in these census of the Thirteen Original Colonies. The two categories were “16 & under” and “16 and over” for the whites, slaves and other freed persons. We can, therefore, deduct that the one number are for adults and the other are for children. Keep track of the numbers until later census.
1800/1810 Census - Now begins a new category for certain ones in the family, “16-25". This age is very important to the United States at this time as this is their supply of fighting men in the colonies. In 1800, the United States only had about 1,000 men in military service as they depended on the militia for protection of the frontiers and established colonies.
1820 Census - Two notes are made in these two census of interest, “foreigner not naturalized” and “occupation”. The first one can indicate that the person for whom it is listed or someone in the household is just coming to this country. Make note for the 1850 census to give some indicate of their place of birth. Note the occupation also refers to someone in the household and this will become apparent in later census.
1830 Census - In this census, there were instructions to note those who were “deaf & dumb under 14", those 14-25 as well as those over 25. In addition they ask for those “who are blind” and “aliens - foreigners not naturalized”. These notes do not refer to just the head of households, but anyone within that house. Make a note that there will be someone in the household that falls into these categories. Later census will indicate which individual is in that area and might explain why a child remains at home all of their life.
1840 Census - The most ignored and most underused Census in the lot. The problem with this census is it is recorded on two pages and page two is just a series of marks. It does take a little time to transcribe this page with the page one of names and ages, but it is well worth the time and effort. On page two you find the slaves and freed colored set apart into age groups just like the whites. There is the category of “occupations” with a number of different ones in broad categories, i.e. mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and trade, navigation on the ocean, navigation on canals, lakes and rivers. It is always good to see these folks and their occupations. However, you need to be careful here as always. I was transcribing one for Wythe County, Virginia and found one man listed as “navigation on the ocean”. If you know your Virginia maps, you know that Wythe County is about 400 miles from the ocean. He could have been a sea captain who has retired and moved west, but as I remember the age he was only about 30-40 years old. Even in those days with the short life span this is too young to retire. Another category is given as “learned professions and engineers”. I feel that this should read - learned - professions - engineers. The next list is very important as here is given “name and ages of military pensioners”. The two wars up to this time are the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. With the age, you can determine from which war they have received a pension. They did not indicate the persons that fought in the war, but never received a pension. This latter is a much larger list. Following the pensioners are marks for “cannot read or write”, “blind” and “idiotic”. Remember these were not professionals to determine either of these cases. Mark these down with an open mind. Finally, there are several columns for “teachers - students” and also for those who taught schools with private pay and those who were paid by the county.
1850 Census - From the “least used” to the “most used” census in the collection we make our way to the 1850 Census as the last in this discourse. Beyond the name, age and sex comes some more interesting notes as “occupation”. Does this compare with the 1840 Census? Now do they own property and does it have a value? Great time now to look at Deed Books and Survey Books to see where the land is located. From whom did he purchase the land and to whom did he sell that land? See how a small little note can lead you in all kinds of directions? If he had land, then he probably made a will! It never ends. The next column is “place of birth”. Do you suspect them as being “alien” from 1840? Does this match? Go back to the 1840 and double check the ages for the alien since it might have been a parent living in the household earlier or even yet the parent could have had the same name and has since died and the son of that name is now being listed as head of household. Then there is a space for one “married within the last 12 months”. Oh boy, look closely at the six children. Note their ages. Could this have been a second or even third marriage? There are also notes on those over 20 years old who cannot read and write, blind, deaf, insane, idiotic, pauper or convicts. In transcribing the 1850 Marion County, Tennessee census a number of years ago, there were notes that baffled me for a long time. Having written a book on the individuals of Sequatchie Valley, I noted some of the Marion County persons were “Methodist” in their religious preference. In the Census, they were listed as “M”. Others were listed as “B”, “C”, etc. Therefore, I concluded that this mean that some were Methodist, others Baptist or Catholic, etc. So far no one has challenged me on this summation.
Surprise!! Surprise!! Surprise!! Hopefully you will find tidbits you did not know existed and help make your ancestors come more alive. Oh, what fun genealogical research can be if you just take a few extra minutes to understand what is there and what you can do with the little tidbits found in the pages of the Census. Go and look for those Surprises!!!








1840 Virginia Census for the Mountain Empire
Book Version and CD Version
Contains the 1840 Census for the sixteen counties in southwestern Virginia: Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Henry, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wythe.  

1790 Pittsylvania County Virginia Census

1840 Giles County, VA Census

1840 Augusta County, VA Census

1840 Henry County, VA Census


1830 Sequatchie Valley, TN Census

1840 Washington County, TN Census


1820 Fairfield County, SC Census and Map

1820 Abbeville, SC Census and 1825 Map



If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.