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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 6, Number 11
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
May 21, 2014


Publisher's Notes

For the next few weeks, we are going to be publishing some of our older newsletters. This article was originally published in 2011 when our readership was about a third of today's level. For those that were reading the newsletters back in 2011, we appreciate your loyalty. This is a series on the census from 1790-1930 and beyond.

In celebration of Memorial Day, we will be offering a 20% discount on all our items through Monday, May 26th. In the Coupons and Special Offers section of the website, type NEWS20 for the discount to calculate. The discount will apply to all our Books, CD Collection, New Books, and Maps.

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

Thank you,
James Douthat
Mountain Press


CENSUS 1790 - 1850

The taking of census is nothing new and certainly the United States did not invent the event. We can read in the Bible that the Hebrew children gathered under the sign of their tribe to be counted. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem “as he was of the house of David” to be counted. Since that time, census have been taken so that leaders of the kingdom knew the number of people they had at their command, especially for men who were of fighting age. So it is natural that the young nation of the United States should begin taking the census of the population every ten years. In this series of articles, we will explore those census and especially the parts that you might have overlooked in your beginning research or in your haste. Hopefully you didn’t just look at a transcription of the census. Transcriptions frequently leave out some of the minor points that can be vital in your research.

Future issues will cover the 1860-1890 period; the 1900-1930 period and the last article will deal with the various other census available, i.e. State Census; Slave Census, Agriculture, Manufacturing census.

1790 Census

This very first census was very simple in scope. As with most of the census prior to 1850, the only name given is that of the head of the household - male or female. Then the age grouping is simply male under 16 years of age and those over 16 and all females are grouped into one listing. This latter idea applies to “slaves” and “other freed persons”. With this census you can find the Civil Division of the residency - State/County/ Territory. You will find only a few states in this census as many were lost, especially in the War of 1812. States like Virginia have reconstructed their census from the 1783 tax listing which is the only complete one of the period. Other states did the same. There were only the first thirteen states involved here with the Northwest and South of the River Ohio Territories. Understand that Tennessee at that time was still a part of North Carolina. Kentucky and West Virginia was a portion of Virginia at the time. Areas like North Carolina were divided into Civil Districts which helps narrow your search. The sole purpose of this census is to establish the fighting strength of the newly established United States. Note the age breaks for the males counted.

1800 Census

With the advent of this census, we retain the State/County/Territory element in the census and still only have the name of the head of the household. The counting is getting a little more spread with the age groups as follows: “under 10 years of age”; “10-15 yrs”; 16-25 yrs”; 25-44" and those “45 upwards” for both males and females. There is the column for “All other free persons, except “Indians not taxed” and “slaves”. Note the age group of 16-25 years of age. This would represent the soldier group. Remember that in 1800, the United States only had 1000 men in their standing Army.

1810 Census

Note that the same form for the 1800 Census was used for the 1810 Census.

1820 Census

In this census, the various States/Counties/Territories with the names of the heads of household only is retained. The age/race/sex breakdown is followed. But in this the census, there are four columns in the middle of the page that break with the past. The first column is very important and often missed with a quick glance at the page. It is the note “foreigner not naturalized” which can mean the head of the household or spouse as well as one of their parents living in that household. It means someone in the house was born in a foreign country. Now the search really begins. You can study immigration records, county naturalization records, etc for the clue of who this might be in that household. Also added are the three columns for occupations within the household, i.e. agriculture, commerce or manufacturing. All this means is that some in the household was engaged in farming, shop keeping or the manufacturing of goods.

1830 Census

The 1830 census breaks down the age groups a little more with younger children and adds those over 100 years of age. The biggest change is in the addition of questions about the persons, i.e. “Who are deaf and dumb under 14 years of age”; “Who are deaf and dumb of 14 and under 25 [years of age]”; “Who are deaf and dumb of 25 and upwards”; “Who are blind” and the more important one “Aliens - foreigners not naturalized”. Remember there are only numbers in the blanks and they do not indicate who is blind, deaf or foreign. Knowing that someone is in one of these latter categories might explain why a son or daughter lived with the parents all their life and unmarried.

1840 Census

Of all of the most misused census, the 1840 falls into that listing. The real problem was that it was written on two pages and one had to read all the way across to gather all of the data. In the microfilm version, these two pages are photographed separately and therefore, far too many read just the page with all of the names of the heads of household and ignore the second page which is just numbers or check marks. In the breakdown of the white males and females, there are 13 spaces for each. There are blanks for the slaves in age groupings as well as the free colored persons. The big addition, we find the occupations. This area includes those engaged in mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing & trades, navigation on the ocean, navigation on canal, lake or river and finally “learned professions & engineers”. I personally think this latter group should be - learned - professions - engineers and not one group.

The second big addition is the name and age of those military pensioners. This would include both those from the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Their age should give you a clue as to which war. In addition, there are blanks for those who cannot read or write, blind, idiotic, etc. The last few columns pertain to teachers and school with the type of schools, number of students and the number of students for which the teachers are paid by the county. There are details about the family in every way except names.

Most abstracters and transcribers work only on the first page since one has to be very careful on the second page to have lines match up. We keep track of the line numbers to do just this in our transcriptions.

1850 Census

We come now to the one census most commonly used in genealogical research. For the first time we have the name of each person in the household as well as the age, sex and race of each. Several more blanks are very important, i.e. occupation; property and value; where the person was born; married within the last twelve months; attended school in the last twelve months and then those who are 20 years or older who cannot read or write; blind, deaf, insane, idiotic, as well as pauper or convicts. We now have the origin of birth of each person. If they were listed in a prior census and we found “foreigners” in our listing, then we might pick it up here who that person was. This origin of birth is likewise very important as it gives us a location to backtrack on those who were born in other states or territories.

In Part 2 of this series, we will focus on the census for the years 1860 - 1890. Yes Virginia, there was an 1890 census and much of it has survived. Happy Hunting!




In celebration of Memorial Day, we are offering 20% off all items through Monday, May 26th. To receive the discount, just type NEWS20 in the coupons and special offers section on the checkout page.

The discount will apply to all our Books, CD Collection, New Books, and Maps.


A Compendium of Rhea and Meigs Counties, TN 1808-1850


265 Pages, Soft Cover, TN-0199, $45.00

In the early development of the counties of Tennessee, Rhea and Meigs were one and the same county with the Tennessee River dividing the two portions.These records are compiled by family name and include information found in the tax lists, 1830, 1840 and 1850 census, and marriage records. Three different appendices are added, A and B are the complete listing of the heads of household on the 1850 Rhea and Meigs census arranged by page and household number enabling one to find the neighbors. Appendix C is a listing of the statistics from the 1830, 1840 and 1850 census.

Click here for surnames and more information.



1850 Cities, Towns, Townships, Hundreds for the United States


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

Click here for more information.



1840 Virginia Census for The Mountain Empire


268 Pages, 8.5" X 11", Full Name Index,

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.

Click here for the printed version.

Click here for the CD version.


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