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1820 Census Records Research Guide

By Family Tree Editors

Table of Contents

Deep-dive into US census records and other population counts. From helpful research resources to clues about solving ancestor mysteries, our experts provide solutions to your toughest census conundrums.

The 1820 census kept the same age/gender categories as the previous two except for an added column breaking out males ages 16 to 18 (who were double-counted under males age 16 to 26). […] This census also asked for the number of “Foreigners not naturalized” and those engaged in agriculture, commerce and manufacture. Important for those with African American ancestors, 1820 was the first census to distinguish between slaves and “free colored,” who were enumerated by gender and age (to age 14, 14 to 26, 26 to 45, and 45 and up).

David Fryxell, “US Census Information Year-by-Year for Genealogists

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1820 Census Fast Facts

OFFICIAL
DATE

August 7

NUMBER OF
QUESTIONS

7

NUMBER OF
STATES

23

DECENNIAL
CENSUS NUMBER

4th

NOTABLE
QUESTIONS

Males 16-18
Naturalization status
Occupation
Slaves or “free colored”; gender and age

10 LARGEST CITIES

New York City, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Baltimore, MD
Boston town, MA
New Orleans, LA
Charleston, SC
Northern Liberties township, PA
Southwark district, PA
Washington, DC
Salem town, MA

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1820 Census Form Image

United States Census Bureau (click here to view larger and download)

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1820 Census Questions

  1. The number of free white males and females aged, respectively:
    – under 10 years of age
    – of 10 years but under 16 years
    – of 16 years but under 18 years (for males)
    – of 16 years but under 26 years (for males)
    – of 16 years but under 26 years (for females)
    – of 26 years but under 45 years
    – 45 years and upward
  2. The number of male and female slaves aged, respectively:
    – under 14 years of age
    – of 14 years but under 26 years
    – of 26 years but under 45 years
    – 45 years and upwards
  3. The number of free colored males and females aged, respectively:
    – under 14 years of age
    – of 14 years but under 26 years
    – of 26 years but under 45 years
    – 45 years and upwards
  4. Number of foreigners not naturalized
  5. Number of persons (including slaves) engaged in agriculture, commerce, and manufactures

United States Census Bureau, Index of Questions: 1820

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Where can I find the 1820 census?

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How to Read the 1820 Census

[Breaking out males ages 16 to 18] can really narrow a birth year if you happen to have a male ancestor born about 1802 to 1804. Just keep in mind that all age questions were supposed to be answered as of the date the enumeration began: Aug. 7, 1820.

David Fryxell

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1820 Census Research Resources

Websites

Census.gov
1820 Fast Facts
1820 Overview
1820 Index of Questions

Cyndi’s List
1820 U.S. Federal Census Online Records and Indexes

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Family Tree Wiki
United States Census 1820

RootsWeb
1820 U.S. Census

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