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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 6, Number 12
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
June 4, 2014


Publisher's Notes

This week we continue with our series on the census which was originally published in 2011. We appreciate all those readers that have been with us since 2011 and hope you don't mind this refresher course on the census. This article deals with the census from 1860-1890.

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

Thank you,
James Douthat
Mountain Press


CENSUS 1860-1890

This is the second part of our series of four articles on the Census from 1790 until 1930. This edition will cover the second half of the nineteenth century. These records have a lot of new information for each of the following years: 1860 - 1870 - 1880 and 1890. As you remember, the first article discussed how the early census contained primarily the names of the heads of households. With these census years, the name of everyone living in the household is given.

1860 Census

As with the 1850 Census, this 1860 Census continues with the dwelling number and the visitation number of each household followed by the names of the heads of the household with age, sex and race shown. This latter naming follows with each person living within the household at the time of the enumeration. Next is the occupation of each person over fifteen years of age, both male and female. Then are the questions about the value of the property which was usually a “guesstimate” from the head of the household. Once more, the origin of birth of each individual is given. Watching the changes with a large number of children, you can sometimes follow their migration pattern by knowing where each child was born. The question of “Married within the year” can give a clue that the head of the household might have married more than once, especially if the household contains lots of children. Line 12 of the forms asks if the children were in school during the last twelve months. Some did and some did not, however, if there are no marks it might just mean the enumerator was lazy and did not go into this question. The last two lines, i.e. Line 13 and 14, seek to know personal issues within the family and now identifies which one is blind, deaf or cannot read or write.

We have found some problems in transcribing this census. Foremost, in this year it seemed to be common to use just initials for each person except the head of the household. You will need to take careful note of the age, sex and race of each person at this point. Another common problem with this census is the way they were microfilmed. Sometimes it seems that the person running the camera would throw the pages up in the air and then photograph them as they fell. In the 1860 Hamilton County, Tennessee census it begins on page one, “John age 9 etc.”, followed by “Ann age 4 etc.”. Now who were their parents? To transcribe this record, we had to take each page as it came and then cut and paste it back by the “Dwelling Number and Visitation Number”. Dozens of pages later, the two children mentioned above fell within their family grouping.


The 1870 Census, the first following the Civil War, continues to get a little more complicated with details. We can really appreciate these differences. It begins the same, except for the age. If the child is under one year of age, then the age is given in twelfths such as 3/12. This does not mean they were born in March, but they are three months old at the time of the enumeration which varied within a couple of months. Note the date at the top of the page. With the race, they added “W for white; B for blacks; M for mulatto or mixed blood; C for Chinese and I for Indians”. There is additional information on the birth of parents whether foreign born or not. There is the usual personal questions asked about their being deaf, blind, cannot read or write. Now in the last place are two questions that pertain to the status of the head of household about citizenship. This is intended to find out about those males 21 years of age and upwards. The last question is the most interesting and reads: “Male Citizens of U.S. of 21 years of age and upward whose right to vote is denied or abridged on other grounds other than rebellion or other crimes.”

Keep in mind that many of the southern states had their voting privileges denied due to their rebellion in the late “War of Northern Aggression”, as some call it. The question really asks have they been given the oath of allegiance and they had to sign it to have their rights restored. In many cases, thirteen to be exact, the right could have been restored ONLY by a Presidential Pardon. In this latter situation one young General had his mother-in-law request a pardon from President Johnson. She stated that he did not understand what he was doing and then signed her name - Mrs. James K. Polk. Pardon was granted. If your ancestor was marked in this column, you will need to research more into the answer.


The 1880 Census retains the same records of individuals as to age, sex and race as before, but now we find the “relationship to the head of the household” column. This is one of the most important features of this census. There is a column now for the “months un-employed” as well as the same for deaf, blind and idiotic. In addition, there are added columns for the place of birth for the person, their mother and father.

Beginning with the 1880 Census, there is a second copy of the records that was done by the Works Projects Administration [WPA] called the Soundex. This is an alphabetical listing of all the families in the state with children under 10 years of age. There is a complicated set of number values given to each name and then the soundex can be consulted for that number. Not all of one name appears together, but the list is alphabetical, more or less, by the given name of the head of the household. This sometimes works and sometimes it is more frustrating than it should be. Names of a similar sound and spelling will be sorted by this method. In researching my wife’s family, I knew the ages of three great great aunts and uncles. From the soundex, I was able to find the parents simply by looking at the children. I had been told that the father was either James or John - wrong, his name was William. It took a long time, but the results were worth the effort.


The first thing most people are told is that there is no 1890 Census. This is incorrect. There was an enumeration of the population taken and a few pages have survived in various courthouses around the country. For the most part, however, there was a fire in the Commerce Department and the vast majority of the pages of the census were destroyed. To this problem, Congress had to authorize the destruction of the piles of ashes left by the fire.

Now the real truth is that much of the Census has survived, only the population schedule was destroyed. There are many volumes of the remaining census left. You can find these in the local library where various congressmen place their materials. Since 1850, there have been compilations of various records from the various census. If you are working on the local history of a particular area, it will pay you to search out these records. The materials will give you a new insight into the local areas of the country. You may not be interested in the number of cases of flux that occurred in your county in a certain year, but other materials like the number of churches of a particular denomination might well be of interest. This would be greatly enhanced by the size of each congregation, values of the property, size of their homes, etc. The information that is available is not sought after by genealogist, but historians love it.

Stayed tuned … The next article will deal with the census from 1900 to 1940. Happy Hunting!




Helen Swanson
FI-0380, $15.00

The vast majority of the 1890 Census is lost but there are 6,160 names and entries that have survived. These are found in AL, DC, GA, IL, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OH, SD and TX. This is the Index to those names.

Click here for more information.


Hamilton County, Tennessee 1860 Census


James L. Douthat
101 Pages, Surname Index, Map/Illustrations of Districts, TN-0398, $20.00

A transcription from the microfilm of the original which was photographed in random fashion and, therefore, almost totally unusable. The transcription is rearranged in the numerical order of households/family number.

Click here for surnames and more information.



Smyth County, Virginia 1870 Census


120 Pages, Surname Index, Soft Cover, VA-0436, $25.00

Smyth County, located in southwestern Virginia is a county that figured strongly during the Civil War. This census gives the primary vital information found in the census. The household number, name of those found in the household and ages with the occupation is given.

Click here for surnames and more information.



Special Presidential Pardons for Confederate Soldiers


Two Volumes, 530 Pages, Perfect Bound, GN-0229, $60.00

Following the Civil War, there were thirteen "confederate profiles" that disqualified an individual from receiving a "general amnesty." If a "rebel" fell under one of these exclusions, amnesty was denied and an application for a "special personal pardon" from President Johnson was required. With 30,000+ listings, this hefty two-volume set is a compilation of confederate names, reason(s) for exclusion, and names of individuals who 'vouched' for them. Included are pardons given individuals in Alabama, Arkansas, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Northern Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Click here for more information on the printed version.

Click here for more information on the CD version.


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