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There’s More to the Census than Population

Ever wonder how many cows your great great grandfather owned? Did they raise apples or potatoes? Did they manage the local mill and employ workers? Maybe grandma ran the local hattery? Ancestry.com and many other resources provide the “manuscript” census schedules for use with family history but most have not digitized and made available the hand-written schedules from the “non-population” census surveys. These schedules collected, frequently by the same census taker, collected data on industrial, agricultural, and social development. As early as 1810 the nation was interested in manufacturing establishments, but not until 1840 were printed schedules, entitled “Schedules of Mines, Agriculture, Commerce, Manufacturers, etc.” used, and not until 1850 was the statistical methodology considered successful.

The schedules for these non-population census were retained for 1840-1880 but because of the overwhelming amount of paper involved, later schedules were disposed of and thus not available. Remember that microfilm and digitization technology did not exist in the 1900’s.

The Indiana State Archives is listed as the repository for the 1840-1880 schedules for Indiana. The Agricultural and Manufacturer’s schedules were microfilmed and available for use at the State Archives. IUB also has a copy of this microfilm: HA362 .C46 Agriculture and HA361.5 year-m Manufactures located in the Wells Library, East Tower 2.

For a complete recount of these records, see: “Non-Population Census Schedules: Description, Accessibility and Disposition” Indiana Libraries 11:1/2 (1992) 24-34. For examples of the questionnaires and a more detailed history of the early U.S Census methodology see Carroll D. Wright’s The History of the United States Census prepared for the Senate Committee on the Census. 1900. [note: this is over 900 pages, but covers all the various enumerations including those for Indians, slaves and dependent classes. It does not give information about individuals but tells you what the government collected.] Wright prepared this as Congress was considering the permanent establishment of the Census Bureau instead of legislating it every 10 years. This was achieved in 1906.

Feel free to contact Lou Malcomb (malcomb@indiana.edu) if you’d like to chat about the history of the U.S. Census.

Post Submitted by Lou Malcomb (MCHC Research Library Volunteer)

Comments (0)

  1. Lee Ehman

    Reply

    Thanks for this “reminder” article. I’m going to try to find out where the Michigan schedules are archived, and check the farms of my forebears…. Lee

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