Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Don't Forget the Coops -- Farming and Agricultural Records for Genealogy
In my experience, genealogists generally ignore the social, economic and cultural background of their ancestors when, by and large, such information can be extremely valuable in discovering not only the identity of those ancestors, but also information about how they lived. One of the most neglected areas of research deals with records compiled by various organizations and agencies in conjunction with the operation of farms across the country.

As you go back into the past with your genealogical research, the chances increase dramatically that your ancestors were involved in some agriculturally related activity. In 1935, the number of farms in the United States peaked at 6.8 million. Currently, only about 2% of the population live on farms. see National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center, Demographics. But back in 1790, 94.9% of the population of the United States lived on farms as opposed to urban areas. See U.S. Census: United States Urban and Rural.

As it states in the Research Wiki on Farming and Agricultural Records:
Most researchers do not think of using farming and agricultural records, but it is important to know that from 1850 to 1900 Agricultural Schedules were compiled in conjunction with the U.S. Census records. For more information on these records see United States Census Agricultural Schedules. See also Agricultural Schedules: 1850 to 1900. There is some information available as early as 1840. See Census of Agriculture
Agriculture Schedules can help where land and tax records are missing or incomplete. 
These records can be used
  • to distinguish between people with the same names
  • to document land holdings of ancestors with suitable follow-up in deeds, mortgages, tax rolls, and probate inventories
  • to verify and document black sharecroppers and white overseers who may not appear in other records
  • to identify free black men and their property holdings
  • to trace migration and economic growth
See Non-Population Schedules and Special Censuses.
One of the basic types of agricultural organizations were and are the agricultural coops or cooperatives. Many of these organizations have been active for over a hundred years or longer and still have records of their early activity. Here is a sample of some of the resources you might look for in finding information about your farming ancestors:

Records from these and many other organizations can usually be found in state and local historical societies, stake and local libraries, college and university special collections libraries, state archives and many other repositories. Here are some examples of the types of collections you might find:

1 comment:

  1. James,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!