AncestorNews: Pre-1850 Censuses

AncestorNews: Pre-1850 Censuses

I know I'm not the only genealogist who hates looking at those pre-1850 censuses. These are the records that name only the head of household, with everyone else counted not by name, but by age and/or sex. There's just something about those columns of dits and dashes that makes...

I know I’m not the only genealogist who hates looking at those pre-1850 censuses. These are the records that name only the head of household, with everyone else counted not by name, but by age and/or sex. There’s just something about those columns of dits and dashes that makes me go cross-eyed.

However, because the census is one of the most valuable tools for American researchers, I searched for a way to make pre-1850 research more palatable-and more successful. Here’s my simple secret.

Go to FamilyTreeMagazine.com and download a blank census form. Next, use the form to copy the census as it was originally written. For example, my 1800 form showed Jacob Faulkinbury as head of household, three free white males in the house, one under age 10, one 10 to 15, and one 26 to 44; four free white females, one under age 10, two aged 10 to 15, and one aged 26 to 44.

Now, here’s where I trick myself into getting more out of my research. Using the same form, I write in the Name column:

Jacob, (age 26-44) b. 1755-1774
Jacob’s wife ? (age 26-44) b. 1755-1774
Boy (age 0-9) b. 1791-1800
Boy (age 10-15) b. 1785-1790
Girl (age 0-9) b. 1791-1800
Girl (age 10-15) b. 1785-1790
Girl (age 10-15) b. 1785-1790

Although it doesn’t seem like much of a trick, re-writing the family in this manner makes it easier at a glance to understand the family unit-and compare them to other census years.

Do you have a trick for getting the most out of pre-1850 censuses? If so, I’d love to hear about it—and we’ll be sure to post your responses in an upcoming AncestorNews.

Until then, some of my favorite Websites for free census transcriptions:

CensusDiggins
www.censusdiggins.com

CensusFinder
www.censusfinder.com

Census Online
www.census-online.com

Entire 1790 Census from the US Census Bureau
www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/1790.htm

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