In March 1849, Congress enacted a bill establishing a census board, whose
membership consisted of the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the
Postmaster General. This board was "to prepare and cause to be printed such
forms and schedules as may be necessary for the full enumeration of the
inhabitants of the United States; and also proper forms and schedules for
collecting in statistical tables, under proper heads, such information as to
mines, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, education, and other topics as will
exhibit a full view of the pursuits, industry, education, and resources of the
The Congress also authorized the creation of the Department of the Interior in
March 1849, and part of the enabling act provided that the Secretary of the
Interior should "exercise all the supervisory and appellate powers now exercised
by the Secretary of State in relation to all acts of marshals and others in
taking and returning the census of the United States."
The seventh census was governed by the provisions of an act of May 23, 1850,
which directed that six schedules be used to collect the information requested
by the Congress. The enumeration began on June 1, 1850, and was to be completed,
with the results returned to the Secretary of the Interior by November 1, 1850.
The Census Board prepared and printed six schedules for the 1850 census as
- Schedule No. 1 - Free Inhabitants.
- Schedule No. 2 - Slave Inhabitants.
- Schedule No. 3 - Mortality. This schedule collected data— including
name, age, sex, color, and place of birth—on persons having died during the
year ending June 1, 1850. Additional data were collected on constitutional and
marital status; profession, occupation, or trade; month of death; disease or
cause of death; number of days ill; and any suitable remarks.
- Schedule No. 4 - Production of Agriculture. This schedule collected
data on agricultural production for the year ending June 1, 1850.
- Schedule No. 5 - Products of Industry. This schedule collected data
on the products of industry for the year ending June 1, 1850, and applied to
all forms of productive industry, including manufactures (except household
manufactures), mining, fisheries, and all kinds of mercantile, commercial, and
- Schedule No. 6 - Social Statistics. This schedule collected
aggregate statistics for each subdivision enumerated on the following topics:
valuation of real estate; annual taxes; colleges, academies, and schools;
seasons and crops; libraries; newspapers and periodicals; religion; pauperism;
crime; and wages.
Each of these schedules was supplemented by printed instructions in which the
intention of each inquiry was explained. In addition, each assistant was
supplied with a "sample" schedule that had been completed the way the Census
Board had intended. Each schedule included a space at the head for the entry of
the name of the civil division for which the enumeration was made and the date
on which the inquiries were completed. Assistants were required to sign each
Joseph C.G. Kennedy supervised the enumeration and compilation of census data at
the end of the 1850 Census. He served as "Secretary" of the Census Board from
May 1, 1849 to May 31, 1850, before being appointed Superintendent Clerk, by the
Secretary of the Interior. Kennedy was succeeded as Superintendent Clerk by
James D. B. De Bow, on March 18, 1853. Upon completing the compilation of census
results, De Bow resigned the office on December 31, 1854, and the census office
The 1850 census covered the following states:
- District of Columbia
- Florida Territory
- Minnesota Territory
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico Territory
- New York
- North Carolina
- Oregon Territory
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Utah Territory
I have not found any record of missing schedules for the 1850 census.
Information Found Within the 1850 Census - Free Inhabitants
- Name of each person.
- Name of the county, parish, township, town, or city where the family
- Color (Race)
- Whether married in the last year
- Profession, occupation, or trade of each person over 15 years of age
- Value of Real Estate
- Whether deaf, blind, dumb, insane, idiotic, pauper, or criminal
- Whether able to speak or speak English
- Whether the person attended school within the previous year
Genealogy Strategy for the 1850 Census
The 1850 census is considered the first of the "modern census." It was the
first to provide great vital information on all members at a residence, by
enumerating their age and birth location. The 1850 census also provided more in
depth information on the economic status of our ancestors. We're now able to
determine whether they were land holders, as well as the type of employment they
had and whether they had any schooling.
- Location of the Household
As in all census, the location of the household at the time the
census was taken becomes a valuable tool for further research allowing you to
concentrate on records of that time period in that particular location. The
1850 census will provide you the district, township, and county of your
- Establishing the Composition of a Family
For the first time within a census, individual names are provided. No
relationships were given in the census, instructions were provided to the
census taker as to which order to enumerate a household. "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."
- Age of Inhabitants
The 1870 census (column 13) indicates the month in which the person
was born, if born "within the year," that is between June 1, 1869 and May 31,
1870. While not an exact age, the fact that you're provided the year each
person is born will assist you in finding birth records.
- Freedmen Research
Freed men of color were enumerated identically to any other free person. There
were a total of 424,183 freedmen enumerated in the 1850 census of the United
- Tracking the Migration
The 1850 census provides the birthplace of each individual. Along with
the age of each individual this can enable the genealogist to track the
location of the family at different years in the past. The instructions
provided to the enumerators requested that they provide the initials or name
of the state, or country of each person enumerated. Some enumerators would
provide an even further breakdown, such as county or township, especially when
the birth occurred in the state of the enumeration.
For the first time, the occupation of each family member over 15 is recorded.
Indication of a farmer would point to further searching of Schedule 4,
agricultural census. A mention of a profession would indicate possible search
of a professional directory. Clergy were enumerated as well under occupation,
and the genealogist should search within the records of the denomination
Though previous schedules (1830-1840) showed foreigners not yet naturalized,
the new 1850 census only provided the birthplace of each person. Since the
enumerator was supposed to provide the country of birth (if not born in US),
you can use that information in searching immigration records.
- Real Estate
An indication of real estate value might point to land or tax records.
- At School
An indication of being at school within a household might point to
local school records.
An indication of insane within a household might point to
guardianship or institutional records.1
The indication of a persons enumeration as a convict is rare,
unless the census actually finds them in the jail at the time of the census.
Furthermore, a person in jail, may be listed twice, if his home was in a
different district. Instructions given to the enumerator was to ask, or use
their own knowledge and county records as a source, in identifying those who
had been a "criminal" within the past year.
- Slave Research
Slaves for the first time were enumerated in separate schedules.
There were a total of 3,200,600 slaves enumerated in the 1840 census of the
United States3. The 1850 questionnaire relating to
slave inhabitants collected the names of slave owners; number of slaves; the
slaves color, sex, age, and whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic;
the numbers of fugitives from the state; and the number manumitted.
Researchers who have identified a slave holder of a possible ancestor should
then consult probate or tax records for possible further identity of specific
individuals. Because there are ages given with the slaves, the genealogist is
able (with verification from additional records) to determine the birth order
in families, especially where names and sex of all members of a slave family
- Native American Research
It is possible to find your Native American ancestor in the 1850
census only if they were residing in an area being taxed. If this is the case,
then your ancestor would be enumerated as any other tax paying citizen was.
1850 Census Forms
- Online Census Membership Programs
1850 Census Images (requires membership $$$)
- Genealogy.com's Census Images (requires membership $$$)
- Online Census Directories
- Source: Inter-University Consortium for Political and
Social Research. Study 00003: Historical Demographic, Economic, and Social
Data: U.S., 1790-1970. Anne Arbor: ICPSR.
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