1850 Census Records Research Guide

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Table of Contents

What Makes the 1850 Census Unique?

The 1850 Census brought with it some features that were not present in past censuses. This was the first census in which each free person in a household was listed individually both by name and by a precise age. That means that you know longer have to worry about the guessing games that previous censuses often required with their dubious age ranges. There are also specific questions related to sex, color, occupation, literacy status and real estate owned. There were also options to check one of the following: “deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiot, pauper or convict.”

What’s perhaps most notable about the 1850 Census is that it was the first to have a separate schedule for slaves. It also accounts for people had died in the year prior to the census. These records are known as mortality schedules, and they also made appearances in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses.

Read more in David Fryxell’s article “US Census Information Year-by-Year for Genealogists”


Deep-dive into US census records and other population counts. From helpful research resources to clues about solving ancestor mysteries, our experts provide solutions to your toughest census conundrums.
Get a free downloadable form to organize and record your family history discoveries from the 1850 US Census.

1850 Census Fast Facts


June 1








Birthplace (state or territory)
Value of real estate
Whether married within the year
Attending school within the year
“Deaf & dumb, blind, insane, idiot, pauper or convict”


New York City, NY
Baltimore, MD
Boston, MA
Philadelphia, PA
New Orleans, LA
Cincinnati, OH
Brooklyn, NY
St. Louis, MO
Spring Garden District, PA
Albany, NY

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1850 Census Questions

As you explore the 1850 Census, you will notice that the questions on the slave schedule differ from those on the form designated for “free inhabitants.” Here are the specific questions for each:

Free Inhabitants 1850 Census Questions

  1. Number of dwelling house (in order visited)
  2. Number of family (in order visited)
  3. Name
  4. Age
  5. Sex
  6. Color: This column was to be left blank if a person was White, marked “B” if a person was Black, and marked “M” if a person was Mulatto.
  7. Profession, occupation, or trade of each person over 15 years of age
  8. Value of real estate owned by person
  9. Place of Birth: If a person was born in the United States, the enumerator was to enter the state they were born in. If the person was born outside of the United States, the enumerator was to enter their native country.
  10. Was the person married within the last year?
  11. Was the person at school within the last year?
  12. If this person was over 20 years of age, could they not read and write?
  13. Is the person “deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict?”

Slave Inhabitants 1850 Census Questions

Note: Slaves were listed by owner, not individually.


  1. Name of owner
  2. Number of slave: Each owner’s slave was only assigned a number, not a name. Numbering restarted with each new owner
  3. Age
  4. Sex
  5. Color: This column was to be marked with a “B” if the slave was Black and an “M” if they were Mulatto.
  6. Listed in the same row as the owner, the number of uncaught escaped slaves in the past year
  7. Listed in the same row as the owner, the number of slaves freed from bondage in the past year
  8. Is the slave “deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic?”

Source: United States Census Bureau, Index of Questions: 1850

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1850 Census Form Images

Free Inhabitant form from the 1850 Census, courtesy of United States Census Bureau
(click here to view larger and download)
Slave schedule from the 1850 Census, courtesy of United States Census Bureau
(click here to view larger and download)

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Where can I find the 1850 census?

Ancestry $

Search Ancestry’s extensive database using a number of specific search terms, including name, birth, occupation, gender, race or nationality and dwelling number. You can also search by state and county.

Census Online

This website boasts a directory of census resources to help you find the records you seek. You can search by state and county.


Search through almost 490,000 images that cover all US states and territories in this boundless collection.

Findmypast $

Search by name, birthplace, city or township, state, county and more. You can also filter for name variants, which can help broaden your search.

Internet Archive

Browse and search hundreds of 1850 handwritten 1850 Census Records. You can also narrow your searches by state and collection.

MyHeritage $

Search over 20 million records by name, birth date and residence. Add keywords as needed.

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1850 Census Research Resources

Websites – 1850 Fast Facts – 1850 Overview – 1850 Index of Questions

Cyndi’s List

1850 U.S. Federal Census Online Records and Indexes

FamilySearch Wiki

United States Census 1850


1850 U.S. Census

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Last Updated: October 2023