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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 3, Number 8
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
May 18, 2011


Publisher's Notes

In this article we discuss the 1820 Census in more detail. While many think this Census provides little information, you can glean a few clues from the information given.

It was nice to see some of you at The National Genealogical Society meeting last week in Charleston. We had a great week at the Conference as well as seeing the sites and eating the local cuisine.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at jimd@mountainpress.com.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press


1820 Census


Each of the different Federal Census asks different questions to arrive at the need of the country at the time of that census. The 1820 is no different from any of the rest of them. Most all of those from 1790 through 1840 are primarily interested in the number of young men that could be pressed into militia/military duty at any one time. You always notice that these age breakdown of men in the 16 to 45 age group is the most divided. These are the men that would be necessary for military service.

The first thing that you notice is the name of the head of the household, be it male or female or white or freed blacks. This is the only name that you will find on this particular census. Sometimes the census is re-written into a more or less alphabetical order. This format does not allow you to find others in the neighborhood, which is very important in most cases. If this is the case, then you have to take what you are given. Hopefully, the census taker is lazy and just copies the names in the order in which he takes them. You can now get a number of names in the neighborhood. This is important because it is generally from the neighborhood that the wife comes as well as the spouses of the children. I personally like to write down the information for about ten to twenty before and after the person of interest to collect the neighborhood.

Only one other source is as good as the census for collecting the people in the neighborhood and that is the road orders of the county. In the early nineteenth century, the county kept its road in good repair by having each person down a particular road give so much time each year to work on the roads, thus you find the listing in the County Court minutes and this gives a great listing of those living on that road.

Following the name of the head of the household are the age/sex groupings of those living in the household at this time. In 1820, both the male and female fall in the same age brackets which are [0-10] [10-16] [16-26] [26-45] [45-up]. Notice that the 16-45 age group is most important for the military service.

The next column in the listing is very important and is the one most often missed. This is the check mark for foreigners not naturalized. What it is telling us is that someone in that household is not a citizen meaning they probably have just come from the old country. If you find this, look into the ships passenger listing for the oldest person named in the census. By the 1820s no one wanted to be considered a “loyalist” or “foreigner”. There is no indication of their country of origin on the census, but the ships listing will have that information.

After the age groupings and the “foreigner not naturalized” columns is the note on the occupation of the head of the household. You will find that most of them are given under the “agriculture” column, but note that there are columns for Commerce and Manufacturing. In some cases, there are workers within that household that fall into each of these latter two columns. Some large households might have others, usually slaves, who were into smithing, harness making or even coopers. They would be noted as “manufacturing”.

Next come the listing of the number of slaves by sex/age groupings, but different than those for the white citizens. Here the male and female are listed separately but by the same age groups as follows: [0-14] [14-26] [26-45] [45-up].

The final set of numbers given in this census is those of the “freed blacks” which also are grouped by sex/age groups. When one is head of the household, their name is given, but when they are employed by the white family their names are not given. The age groupings are the same as for the slaves and fall into “male” or “female”.

The 1820 census, like most of the ones from 1790-1840, people tend to give a minor role in their research. However, this is a big mistake. Granted you don’t have a whole listing of names, but you can glean a great deal from the information that is given. It just takes a little thought and comparisons with other materials to gain the full riches of this census. Make sure you record any side bar note that the census taker might put on the original census. Sometimes, these are very helpful. No matter how good the transcriber might be, always go back to the original pages to glean every single scrap of information that is contained in the records.

Happy Hunting!!!


South Carolina Census Books



Abbeville, South Carolina 1820 Census and 1825 Map
62 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, Full Name Index, SC-0032, $14.50

The Robert Mills map attached for the District is important as it located most all of the major features in the county at that time period.


1820 Fairfield County, South Carolina Census and Map
48 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, Full Name Index, SC-0031, $10.00

We have added to the census the John Allen Tharp map surveyed in 1820 of the Fairfield District and which appeared in the Mills’ Atlas in 1825. This map shows where the churches, ferries, communities and homesteads were at the time in the area. The two items together help a researcher find their ancestor in more full detail.



Tennessee Census Books



Rutherford County, TN 1820 Census Records
TN-0729, $9.00


1820 Sumner County, TN Census
27 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, TN-0119, $6.00

Each entry lists the head of household, the number of males under 10 years-old, 10 to 16 years, 16 to 18 years, 16 to 26 years, 26 to 45 years, and over 45 years. Females are listed under 10 years, 10 to 16 years, 16 to 26 years, 26 to 45 years, and over 45 years.


1820 Williamson County, TN Census
33 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, TN-0123, $6.00

Most of the 1820 for Tennessee has been lost. All of the 1790, 1800 and 1810 [except for one and possibly part of another] and most of 1820 have been lost. This is a very real find for those who need information on the middle Tennessee area.



Virginia Census Books



1820 Pittsylvania County, Virginia Census
44 Pages, Soft Cover, VA-0224, $7.50

One will note a particular age break down for the males between 16-18.


1820 Halifax County, VA Census
33 Pages, 8.5 x 11, Soft Cover, VA-0261, $7.50

In this transcription, the heads of the household are given by name and then all others living in the house are shown by sex/age groups.


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