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Monday, February 18, 2019

Step-by-Step Guide to Using Online Census Indexes: Part Three

Page from the U.S. Federal Census for 1790
There is a 72-year restriction on public access to the census data and so the most recent census records that are available are from 1940. Most people will only see the information from one census become available during their lifetime. All of the main schedules of the U.S. Federal Census are now available online. Here is a list of the main online sources for digitized copies of the U.S. Federal Census records, however, you will need to search for the census records on these websites. This list is not exhaustive and you may find other digital copies on additional websites. Subscription websites are marked with dollar signs.
You might ask why you would use more than one of the digital copies of the census? The answer is that most of these online copies represent different digital scans of the original National Archives microfilms. The quality of the scans varies from copy to copy and also within the individual scanned copies. For example, here is a screenshot of a page from the census taken from By the way, should you wish to do so, you can download the entire census from 1790 to 1940 to your own computer. If you decided to do this, make sure you have a lot of free memory on your hard drive.
The copy of the census records reproduces the original microfilm. All of the other copies of the census have been edited. There is often extra information on the original not visible in the other copies. However, the copy cannot be searched by name. You will need to find the page you need first from one of the other online copies and then use that to find the same page on I am sure that very few people will want to do this on the chance that there is a little bit of additional information, but you should be aware that it is possible.

The most commonly used parts of each U.S. Federal Census are the Population Schedules. These are the listings of the individuals and/or households in the entire census area. However, there are are a number of non-population schedules that also contain valuable genealogically useful information. Here are short descriptions of each of these additional non-population schedules. The information about the content of the schedules is as listed on the National Archives website. These non-population schedules may be found online on and Bear in mind that these schedules may need to be separately searched.

Agricultural Schedules

The U.S. Federal Census Agricultural Schedules were taken in the years 1850, 1860, and 1870 and they provide the following information for each farm.
The name of owner or manager, number of improved and unimproved acres, and the cash value of the farm, farming machinery, livestock, animals slaughtered during the past year, and "homemade manufactures." The schedules also indicate the number of horses, mules, "milch cows," working oxen, other cattle, sheep, and swine owned by the farmer. The amount of oats, rice, tobacco, cotton, wool, peas and beans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, buckwheat, orchard products, wine, butter, cheese, hay, clover seed, other grass seeds, hops, hemp, flax, flaxseed, silk cocoons, maple sugar, cane sugar, molasses, and beeswax and honey produced during the preceding year is also noted. The 1880 schedules provide additional details, such as the amount of acreage used for each kind of crop, the number of poultry, and the number of eggs produced. 
Exclusions--Not every farm was included in these schedules. In 1850, for example, small farms that produced less than $100 worth of products annually were not included. By 1870, farms of less than three acres or which produced less than $500 worth of products were not included.
Manufacturing Schedules

As the United States was transformed from a primarily agricultural country into a manufacturing country, an Act of Congress dated May 1, 1810, mandated that the government make "an account of the several manufacturing establishments and manufactures." However, the Act did not specify the type of information to be collected so the actual information contained in the recorded records varies greatly. From the website:
Manufacturing schedules in 1820, 1850, and 1860 reported the name of the manufacturer; the type of business or product; the amount of capital invested; the quantities, kinds, and value of raw materials used; the quantities, kinds, and value of product produced annually; the kind of power or machinery used; the number of men and women employed; and the average monthly cost of male and female labor. The amount of detail reported in these schedules increased in 1870 and again in 1880. In 1880, supplemental schedules were also used for specific industries, such as for boot and shoemaking, lumber and saw mills, flour and grist mills. 
Exclusions--Small manufacturing operations that produced less than $500 worth of goods were not included on any of the schedules.
Both the Agricultural and Manufacturing Schedules can contain information including details that are not contained in the general population schedules. Both Schedules may also list people who were not residing in the particular area covered by the Population Schedules.

Mortality Schedules

It may seem rather strange, but the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 U.S. Federal Censuses had Mortality Schedules. There are also some mortality schedules from 1885 in some of the state censuses. Fortunately for genealogical researchers, these records often contain information about people that the Census would otherwise have missed. The Mortality Schedules contained deaths in the year preceding the census year. Again from the website:
For each person, the following information is listed: name, age, sex, marital status if married or widowed, state or country of birth, month of death, occupation, cause of death, and the length of the final illness. 
Business Schedules 1935

The U.S. Federal Census Business Schedules contain information relating to advertising agencies, banking and financial institutions, miscellaneous enterprises, motor trucking for hire, public warehousing, and radio broadcasting stations. There were other more limited censuses taken in 1929 and 1933.

Censuses of American Indians

American Indians are not identified in the U.S. Federal Censuses for the years 1790 to 1840. However, the1860 Census began identifying Indians living in the general population. Beginning in 1900, Indians living both on and off the Reservations are included in the Census schedules. A more complete listing of all the specific census records for Indians is contained on the United States Census Bureau website. See History, Censuses of American Indians.

From time to time, it appears that an ancestor or an entire family has suddenly disappeared from the census. This is usually due to the index being inaccurate or the individual or family's movement to a new location but this possibility is relatively rare and searching the census schedules page by page may show the missing family especially when there is an indexing error.

Here is a link to the previous posts in this series:

Part One:
Part Two:

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