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 FamilySearch.org 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 usedOne 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:
See Non-Population Schedules and Special Censuses.
- 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
- University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives
- U.S. National Archives, Records of the Agricultural Cooperative Service
- Farmers Union Central Exchange (Saint Paul, Minn.): An Inventory of Its Records at the Minnesota Historical Society
- Iowa State University, Special Collections, Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Records
- National Farmers Union, History of Cooperatives
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:
- United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library, Special Collections
- Agricultural History Society
- Middletown Thrall Library, Documenting the Agricultural Records of the Black Dirt Region
- University of Manitoba, Archives of the Agricultural Experience
This list could go on. Searching online for agricultural records, livestock organizations, and many other organizations will show a wealth of records.