Episode 120 Resources: The Count: Giving Voice to the 1850 and 1860 US Census

In this fifth and final episode in our Dawn of a New Decade series, learn how these two census sets (1850 and 1860) can be crucial in tracing enslaved people along with documenting free people of color.

Previous Episodes of Interest

1850 and 1860 Population Schedules

  • U.S. Marshal’s are the census enumerators
  • Official enumeration date of June 1, 1850 and June 1, 1860
  • “If a house is used partly for a store, shop, or for other purposes, and partly for a dwelling house, it is to be numbered as a dwelling house. Hotels, poorhouses, garrisons, hospitals, asylums, jails, penitentiaries, and other similar institutions, are each to be numbered as a dwelling house; where the house is of a public nature, as above, write perpendicularly under the number, in said column, the name or description, as ‘‘hotel,’’ ‘‘poorhouse,’’ etc.”
  • “By the term family is meant, either one person living separately in a house, or a part of a house, and providing for him or herself, or several persons living together in a house, or in part of a house, upon one common means of support, and separately from others in similar circumstances. A widow living alone and separately providing for herself, or 200 individuals living together and provided for by a common head, should each be numbered as one family. The resident inmates of a hotel, jail, garrison, hospital, an asylum, or other similar institution, should be reckoned as one family.”
  • “The name of any member of a family who may have died since the 1st day of June is to be entered and described as if living, but the name of any person born since the 1st day of June is to be omitted. The names are to be written, beginning with the father and mother; or if either, or both, be dead, begin with some other ostensible head of the family; to be followed, as far as practicable, with the name of the oldest child residing at home, then the next oldest, and so on to the youngest, then the other inmates, lodgers and borders, laborers, domestics, and servants.” 
  • “Indians not taxed are not to be enumerated in this or any other schedule.”
  • College students are reflected at home and not at school
  • Age for children entered as a fraction
  • Race
    • “Under heading 6, entitled ‘‘Color,’’ in all cases where the person is white, leave the space blank; in all cases, where the person is black, insert the letter B; if mulatto, insert M. It is very desirable that these particulars be carefully regarded.”
  • Value of Real Estate – This is the dirt only (1850)
    • “Under the heading 8 insert the value of real estate owned by each individual enumerated. You are to obtain the value of real estate by inquiry of each individual who is supposed to own real estate, be the same located where it may, and insert the amount in dollars. No abatement of the value is to be made on account of any lien or encumbrance thereon in the nature of debt.”
  • Value of Personal Estate – This is everything else (1860)
    • Totally separate number from real estate
  • Recent Marriages
    • “Under heading No. 10 make a mark, or dash, opposite the name of each person married during the year previous to the 1st of June, whether male or female.”
    • The enslaved were given as gifts for weddings, so this could be a clue of a date to look for a transaction.
  • Heading 13: “Deaf and dumb, blind, insane, pauper, or convict”
    • “The assistant marshal should ascertain if there be any person in the family deaf, dumb, idiotic, blind, insane, or pauper.”

Non-Population Schedules

Non Population Census Records, National Archives,  https://www.archives.gov/research/census/nonpopulation#state 

Slave Schedules

  • Senator Arthur P. Butler (SC) is to blame for the removal of the names of our enslaved ancestors from these records. (Photo of Arthur P. Butler – https://www.loc.gov/resource/pga.13394/)
    • “I move to amend, so that instead of requiring the names of the slaves to be taken, the number only shall be required . . . and I now move to strike out the word ‘names’ and insert the word ‘number.’”
    • “The census heretofore taken has only required the numbers of the slaves, and I see no useful information the obtaining of the names can afford. On a plantation where there are one, two, or three hundred slaves, there are perhaps several of the same name, and who are known simply by some familiar designation on the plantation. It can afford no useful information, and will make a great deal of labor.”
    • The 1850 and 1860 Census, Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants by David Paterson – https://www.afrigeneas.com/library/slave_schedule2.html 
  • Misuse of the Slave Schedules 
    • Claiming a blank line is an ancestor based on just age, gender, and race
    • Assuming someone is the slaveholder based solely on a shared surname
    • Not reading everything on the page
    • Not using the slave schedules in tandem with other resources
      • Population schedules
      • Slavery era documents
  • “Under heading 1, entitled ‘‘Name of slave holders,’’insert, in proper order, the names of the owners of slaves. Where there are several owners to a slave, the name of one only need be entered, or when owned by a corporation or trust estate, the name of the trustee or corporation.”
  • Enslaved people could have possibly been counted twice
    • “Under heading 2, entitled ‘‘Number of slaves,’’ insert, in regular numerical order, the number of all slaves of both sexes and of each age, belonging to such owners. In the case of slaves, numbers are to be substituted for names. The number of every slave who usually resides in the district enumerated is to be entered, although he may happen to be temporarily absent. 
    • The slaves of each owner are to be numbered separately, beginning at No. 1, and a separate description of each is to be given. The person in whose family, or on whose plantation, the slave is found to be employed, is to be considered the owner—the principal object being to get the number of slaves, and not that of masters or owners.”
  • Ages of enslaved children are to be listed in fractions if they were under one year of age as of June 1
  • Fugitive of the State 
    • “Under heading 6 insert, in figures, opposite the name of the slave owner, the number of slaves who, having absconded within the year, have not been recovered.”
  • Manumissions – Look for free people on the slave schedules
    • “In column 7, insert opposite the name of the former owner thereof, the number of slaves manumitted within the year. The name of the person is to be given,although at the time of the enumeration such person may not have held slaves on the 1st of June. In such case, no entry is to be made in column No. 2.”
  • Imprisoned Enslaved People – Use court records to identify names for the enslaved
    • “If slaves be found imprisoned convicts, mention the crime in column 8, and the date of conviction before the number in vacant space below the name of the owner. The convict slaves should be numbered with the other slaves of their proper owner.”
  • Differences between the 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules
    • Tallies at the end for:
      • Number of owners
      • Number of houses
      • Number of male slaves, number of female slaves
      • Total number of slaves
      • Number of fugitives
      • Number manumitted
      • Number of deaf and dumb
      • Number of blind
      • Number of insane
      • Number of “idiots”
    • Number of slave houses (1860)
    • Listing only of enslaved (1850) versus by age order (1860)
    • Dead enslaved not counted in 1850 while in 1860:
      • “Slaves living (born previously) have died since the 1st day of June are to be entered as living, and all details respecting them to be given with as much care as if the slave were living.”
      • “You are desired to give the names of all slaves whose age reaches or exceeds 100 years.”
      • “In the case of slaves it is very essential that the sex be specified, because the entire omission of name. The compensation for all returns where this fact is omitted will be reduced.”
      • Fugitives, period, were counted (1850) while only fugitives who did not return were to be counted (1860)

Mortality Schedules

  • “In 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1885 (where applicable), the census included inquiries about persons who had died in the year immediately preceding the enumeration In general, the questions covered these topics —
    • Name
    • Age at last birthday
    • Sex
    • Race (White was supposed to be left blank)
    • Condition: Free or Slave (F for free, S for enslaved)
    • Marital Status (Was not supposed to be listed for the enslaved, but may be)
    • Profession, occupation, or trade (includes for the enslaved)
    • State, territory, or country of birth of person and parents
    • Length of residence in county
    • Month in which person died
    • Disease or cause of death
    • Place where disease contracted (if not at place of death)
    • Name of attending physician”
    • Number of days ill
  • Marital status may have been listed for the enslaved. Look for married and widowed people.
  • Use the surname, if noted, as a lead for a slaveholder
  • Remarks: Assistant Marshals were supposed to list community outbreaks in the “Remarks” section

Agricultural Schedules

  • Same enumeration date, June 1
  • Name of Owner, agent, or Manager of the Farm
    • “Name of the person residing upon or having charge of the farm, whether as owner, agent, or tenant. When owned or managed by more than one person, the name of only one may be entered.”
  • Acres of Land: improved and unimproved
  • Cash Value of Farm
  • Value of farming implements and machinery
  • Live Stock, Produce

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