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Census Tips: 1830 Census

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Map of county boundaries of NC during the 1830 census The census day of the 1830 census occurred on June 1st and twelve months were allowed to complete the census. Information given was as of the census day, not the day of enumeration. In cases like this, the census may have been enumerated on  December 1st with an age given as 12, but that age was as of June 1, 1830, so it’s possible there was a birthday between the census day and the date of enumeration.

The 1830 census was the first to have a printed form for enumerators to use. Not only that, but there were two copies. After the census was finished, one copy went to Washington, D.C. while the other copy went to the clerk of the district court. Because of problems with missing pages with earlier censuses, the senate wanted to ensure that they would not have missing records. In some cases, copies that went to D.C. went missing and copies from the clerks of district courts were sent to replace them. The copies in D.C. were the only ones transferred to the National Archives.

Unlike some past years, the 1830 census had no other supplemental forms. Questions in the census asked for name of the head of the household, age ranges for white males, for white females, for slaves, for free persons of color, age ranges for any deaf, asked if any blind, any and aliens not naturalized.

As with all census records, there are a few issues that may cause trouble finding individuals. The biggest hindrance is spelling of names. Things that can affect spelling include accents and literacy of the enumerator. Some things may seem straight forward like Smith, but they could still be enumerated as Smithe, Smyth, or Smythe, for example.

Sometimes the writing can be faded, the page torn, or bad handwriting, which make things hard to read. A tip I have for discerning the letters in a name that are hard to read is to compare to other names within a few pages. For example, If you see a name that is new to you, but hard to read that looks like Joker, take a look at how the enumerator forms all the letters in the name. You might realize that Joker is actually another name. In this case, the first letter in James and Joseph looked the same;  I compared the -o and -er in Robert and it was very clear that it was -o, but not -er; I couldn’t find a -k to compare, but noticed it looked a lot like n -h. At this point, I had Joh-. I saw an Anna and realized the last letter was an -n giving the name John.

The Government and Heritage Library has microfilm and published indexes for all states that were enumerated, specifically: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida Territory, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan Territory, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.

Come visit us at the Government and Heritage Library and check it out!

Further Reading

Dollarhide, William. The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules, and Indexes. North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 2000.

Dollarhide, William. Census Substitutes and State Census Records: An Annotated Bibliography of Published Name Lists for All 50 U.S. States and State Censuses for 37 States. Bountiful, UT: Family Roots Publishing Company, 2008.

“United States Census.”

Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census for Genealogists, Researchers, and Family Historians. Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 2002.

Leary, Helen F.M. North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Matthew Wright. Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records. Orem, UT: Ancestry, 2002.

Thorndale, William and William Dollarhide. Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Census, 1790-1920. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1987.

United States Census Bureau. “Through the Decades: Overview.”


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