December 4, 2020
This week I want to finish up with my review of the censuses by talking a bit about non-population schedules and state censuses. These records are often overlooked but can add “flesh to the bones” of a family story by giving details about individuals and the communities they lived in.
Non-population Schedules, most of which were done from 1850 through 1880, were taken by the federal government to gather information about unique segments of the population. The information gathered was used to determine the types of resources the government needed and how to allocate them. The information was also used to look at public health issues. These schedules include agriculture, mortality, social statistics and manufacturing. They are organized by state, then by county and finally by political subdivision (townships, etc.).
Agricultural schedules give information about individual farms such as the owner or operator’s name, the number of acres under cultivation out of the total farm acreage, numbers of livestock and amount of crops grown broken down by individual crop. They also include data about the value of the farm as a whole as well as individual crop and animal values. These schedules add great detail to the story of an ancestor’s life. My own second great grandfather was listed in several agriculture schedules in Utah. For example, in the 1860 schedule his farm had the notation “partial crop loss due to locust infestation.” Anyone who has Utah ancestors has probably heard of the plague of locusts that threatened early settlers with starvation by devouring their crops just before they were ready to harvest. Supposedly, seagulls arrived and ate the crickets, averting the catastrophe. Although the story has been debunked as apocryphal in later years, it’s still interesting to see that the story had some basis in fact and that my ancestor must have suffered because of the locusts’ effect.
Manufacturing and Social Statistics Schedules are more community-based in nature. Manufacturing schedules do list the owner of a business by name, so if an ancestor owned a company, he may be listed. Employees are not, although if an ancestor worked for a company, it may be possible to find information about that company. Social Statistics Schedules do not list any individuals by name but give information about communities or other political divisions such as number of schools, teachers and students; number of paupers, both foreign-born and native, and number of libraries and numbers of books held in them.
Mortality schedules were taken in the year preceding a population schedule. For example, the 1860 mortality schedules covered the period from June 1, 1859 through May 31, 1860. These schedules give the name of the deceased, age, month of death, cause of death and other information that may not be available elsewhere since the years of these schedules usually predate civil registration.
Not all non-population schedules are available online, although Ancestry has digitized a number of them, in particular the mortality schedules between 1850 and 1880. The Family History Library also has a collection of non-population schedules, although many of them are only found on microfilm. State archives often have copies of non-population schedules for their state.
In addition to the federal censuses every ten years, many states also took state censuses every ten years, usually in the years ending in “5” such as 1885, 1895, etc. State census years range from 1825 through 1925, although most states did not take censuses for all of this range of years. Some, such as Colorado, only took one state census, in their case in 1885. For a list of states and their state census years and availability, check the Family Search Wiki at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Census_State_Censuses . It is also worth checking sites such as Ancestry.com since they have a good collection of state censuses digitized on their website.
State censuses are useful for filling in the gaps between the federal censuses and are particularly helpful for the years before and after the lost 1890 census. They are also worth checking out because they often asked different questions than the federal census which may give new information about a family.
Because they are not as readily available, non-population federal census schedules and state censuses are often overlooked by family historians, but they are well-worth searching out since they can add invaluable information which cannot be found elsewhere.
Researcher/Director at Large