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1850 Census Records Research Guide

By Family Tree Editors

Table of Contents

Genealogists might think of this as the “hallelujah!” census. Not only was each free person in the household finally listed by name, but specific ages (as of June 1) replaced those frustrating ranges. Other questions covered sex, color, .” This was the first census to have separate schedules for slaves and for people who’d died in the year prior to the census (called mortality schedules; they also exist for the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses).

David Fryxell, “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

OFFICIAL
DATE

June 1

NUMBER OF
QUESTIONS

13

NUMBER OF
STATES

30

DECENNIAL
CENSUS NUMBER

7th

NOTABLE
QUESTIONS

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

10 LARGEST CITIES

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 Form Images

United States Census Bureau
(click here to view larger and download)

Slave Schedule

United States Census Bureau
(click here to view larger and download)

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1850 Census Questions

Free Inhabitants

  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

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?”

United States Census Bureau, Index of Questions: 1850

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Where can I find the 1850 census?

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How to Read the 1850 Census

Answers abound in the 1850 census, some of them reaching back to resolve mysteries from earlier enumerations. Here’s Mary Clough, living with her daughter in Ouachita County, Ark., of all places, age 84, born in North Carolina. So not only is my 1766 birth date vindicated, but I can now start looking for Mary’s elusive parents in North Carolina. The 1850 census has given me clues to an event more than 80 years earlier.

David Fryxell, “US Census Information Year-by-Year for Genealogists

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1850 Census Research Resources

Websites

Census.gov
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

RootsWeb
1850 U.S. Census

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