Sunday, October 5, 2008

Census Tips

Census records are one of the first sources we use as beginning genealogists, but most of us read them just to find a particular name, age and place of birth. If this is what you are doing, you are not getting full benefit of these valuable records.

We all know that the 1790 - 1840 census records contain only the names of heads of household and the age categories of those in the household. We also know that Revolutionary War pensioners are listed by name and age on the 1840 census. But, have you looked on the right side of the 1840 census form to see if there were free persons of color in the household you are researching? Did you look even farther on right side of the form to see if there were people engaged in the following professions: Mining, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Trades, Navigation of Oceans, Navigation of Canals, Lakes & Rivers, Learned Professions & Engineers. Affirmative marks in these categories can lead you to additional records to search.

Be sure to read any notes written by the enumerator at the end of a district or in the margins. Some enumerators didn’t follow directions and listed more than the required information. On the 1850 Caldwell County, Kentucky census, J.H. Rackerby, enumerator in District 1, did us a favor when he listed the county in addition to the required state of birth. James W. Weller, District 2 enumerator, started to list the counties of birth, but stopped after the first family in his district.

Shady Grove District of the 1880 Crittenden County census was never microfilmed and, as a result, we do not have a complete list of the residents in that district. The few perope we can definitely count as residents in Shady Grove District are those who died between 1 June 1879 and 31 May 1880 and are listed on the 1880 Crittenden County Mortality Schedule. Unless that part of the census is found and microfilmed, we will probably never know the names of the residents of Shady Grove District in 1880.

The 1880 census is the first census that listed the relationship between household members and the head of household. It is easy to assume that younger people in the household were the children of the adult head of household, but this is not always true. The younger person might be an apprentice or a relative other than a child of the head of household.

Each census form is a little different from the pervious form. Reading every part of the census can open new avenues in your research.

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