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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 2, Number 4
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
April 2010


Fourth Edition of 2010 - Genealogy Gazette

With the 2010 Census upon us, we will take a look back at the 1850 Census. Hopefully, you can find valuable information in this Census for your family tree. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at jimd@mountainpress.com.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press

Where Were They in 1850??

In your research, one of the primary sources everyone must consult at one time or another is the Census. The Census was a process of counting individuals in the United States that Congress authorized to be done every ten years beginning in 1790. From the first Census in 1790 up through 1840, only the names of the heads of households were used. Therefore, starting in 1850, we find other names of those living in the household as well. For many, this is the real start of their search.

Let us now examine the 1850 Census more carefully. We want to know what it is telling us and what is not there as well. In the first place, there is personal data about each individual - name - age [as of June 1st 1850], sex and race. The head of the household also includes the number of the dwelling and the family numbered in the enumerator’s listing. These are just reference numbers that keep the families in the order. The next item of real concern is the occupation of those ages 15 and older. It is always nice to compare the listing of the occupation of the head of household from the 1840 and now in 1850. Are they doing the same thing?

Now we get into some real facts that will aid our research in different directions. The next question is about the value of the real estate owned by the head of the household. If there is a value there, then we can consult the deed books and other court documents to refine the information. Real estate is property, and therefore, it is transferred to the individual and later transferred from the individual. This is all found in the Deed Books of the County. Next, the place of birth is given. This can be a state, territory or country and will vary with each individual. Many times, if the location is the same as the location of the census, then nothing is listed. This is often confused with the idea that the individual does not know where they were born which may or may not be true. Following this information, you will find information of whether the person was married within the year previous to June 1st or if they attended school in that same time frame. If the individual is under 20 can they read and write? Is the individual deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic? There is also a statement asking if the individual is a pauper or convict. These latter two items are very seldom met with.

All of this is found in the normal census for 1850. Later Census gives us information on where the parents were born, and what is the relationship of each name under the head of household. In the 1850 Census, individual names are shown, but there is no relationship given and sometimes we mis-read the data and give the number of children as different than reality. At this point, you might want to compare the 1840 to the 1850 and try to put names to the numbers found in 1840. There we have to know if someone has died, unrelated in 1840, but counted or just visiting in the household when the Census taker came around. This relationship is the biggest failing of the 1850 census. We have to wait until the 1880 Census and then most of the children are grown and have their own families thirty years later.

In transcribing the 1850 Census for many counties, there are some variations that we have found. In the 1850 Marion County, Tennessee Census, there were some notes in the margin of each household that we finally figured out were notations on their church affiliation. It was interesting just which churches were present at the time.

At the time of the enumeration of the census, there were several copies of each made, since there were no copy machines available. One copy went to the Federal Government as the official count of the county/city/etc. Another copy was sent to the State where it was recounted to make sure the Federal Government got it right. The last copy was to be kept in the county of origin. In most cases, only the one that went to the Federal Government has remained, if at all. Only in a couple incidences have we found a copy in the county itself. Presently, we have these that have survived available on microfilm or on the internet. Many libraries have copies of these readily available. No matter where you find the copy - make sure you are looking at an original copy and not just a transcription. Use the transcriptions as a guide to finding the original. You have to see the original to make sure you have the right person in sight.

The Federal Government made a listing of all of the cities, towns and townships that were listed in the Census. We have reprinted this listing titled “CITIES, TOWNS AND TOWNSHIPS IN 1850". Please see the information to the right for more details.

Happy Hunting!


H.H. Hardesty, 28 pages, Reprinted 2010
11" x 17", Soft Cover
WV-0105, $12.50

The 26 maps in this series were produced for inclusion in his history and biography collection for the state. Each map is somewhat different, but most give the water courses, political divisions, towns, schools, churches, etc.

The counties included are: Barbour, Berkeley, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Monroe, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Upshur, Wayne, Wetzel, Wirt, and Wood.

Click here for more information.



64 Pages, 8.5" x 11", Alphabetical, Soft Cover
GN-0249, $15.00

Click here for more information.



1850 Bedford County, Virginia Census

108 Pages, Surname Index, Softcover
VA-0247, $30.00

This volume contains a full-text transcription of the 1850 Bedford County, Virginia Census. The original Bedford County census was taken in two areas: the NORTHERN and the SOUTHERN Division. Both divisions are included in this publication. When available, each entry contains:

  • Name of Head of Household, Age, & Occupation
  • Name of Spouse of Head of Household, Age, Place of Birth
  • Name(s) of Child(Children) and age(s).
  • Dollar Value of Real Estate
  • Census Number
  • Race
As an added bonus, the compiler has included personal notes and corrections to the census records.

Click here for examples and surnames.


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