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Census Tips: Mortality Schedule

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Mortality schedule of the 1850-1880 census

The Mortality schedule of the U.S. Federal Census was very useful to genealogists. Many states, including North Carolina, did not issue death certificates until the 1900s. The mortality schedule may in some cases allow you to find a death date. Although only enumerating four years, if your ancestor happened to die and was enumerated, the schedule can be a great substitute of a death certificate.

entries on a 1850 Morality Schedule of NC

entries from the Bladen County, NC 1850 mortality schedule page 49

The people who appear in the schedules died within the year prior to census day, which was June 1st for 1850-1880. Only those whose death was recorded died between June 1st of the previous year and May 30th of the current year.  If a death is dated between June and December, it occurred in the preceding year (i.e., 1849, 1859, 1869, or 1879, depending on the year of the mortality schedule it appears in). If the month of death is listed as sometime between January and May, they are for the current year (i.e., 1850, 1860, 1870, or 1880, depending on the year of the mortality schedule).

Categories in the Mortality Schedule

The 1850 and 1860 schedules give identical information. The categories are: name of the deceased, age at time of death, male or female, color or race, free or enslaved, married or widowed, place of birth, month died, occupation, disease or cause of death, and how long sick. It is not common for slaves to be recorded; however, if you look at the image in this post, you will notice that many were enslaved.

The mortality schedule of 1870 was almost identical to the 1850 and 1860 schedules, but included the household number of the deceased’s family listed in the population schedules. This was a very helpful addition and took the guess work out of trying to connect them to a family in the population schedule. As with 1850 and 1860, the 1870 schedule required that the person who died be connected to  a family enumerated in the census.

The 1880 mortality schedule no longer required the deceased to belong to any enumerated family. In addition to the columns listed above, 1880 also asked how long the deceased was a resident of the county, where they contracted the disease if not in the same place, nativity, the place of birth of both father and mother, and the signature of the attending physician.

1885 and 1900 and Missing Records

A few states have a schedule for 1885, generally these are territories or new states not counted in 1880. Colorado, Dakota Territory, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico. Minnesota is the only state or territory to have a schedule for 1900.

Only a few states have missing Mortality Schedules and none are missing for North Carolina. Our neighbors to the west, Tennessee, is missing their schedule for 1870. The state of Rhode Island is missing 1850, 1860, and 1880.


The Government and Heritage library has microfilm for all mortality schedules in North Carolina and some other states. Take a look at our catalog.

The Government and Heritage Library also has a 13 volume series that abstracts all of the mortality schedules for North Carolina by Sandra Lee Almasy.

For more information on what you can find in the United States Census make sure to check out our short instructional videos .
Digging into the Census:
If you need a refresher on genealogy and family history research basics please refer to our free online course, RootsMOOC: An Introduction to Genealogy and Family History Research,
Looking for more genealogy related instructional videos make sure to go to our YouTube channel,


One Comment

  1. david mcbyers says:

    find a grave

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