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1870 Census Records Research Guide

By Family Tree Editors

Table of Contents

This was the first census to count all individuals as “whole persons,” the 14th Amendment having abolished the three-fifths counting rule in 1868. Similar to the 1850 and 1860 questionnaires, the 1870 census again included age (as of June 1) and birthplace.

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 1870 US Census.

1870 Census Fast Facts

OFFICIAL
DATE

June 1

NUMBER OF
QUESTIONS

20

NUMBER OF
STATES

37

DECENNIAL
CENSUS NUMBER

9th

NOTABLE
QUESTIONS

Count all individuals as “whole persons”
Yes and no questions if parents foreign-born
Months of marriages and births

10 LARGEST CITIES

New York City, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Brooklyn, NY
St. Louis, MO
Chicago, IL
Baltimore, MD
Boston, MA
Cincinnati, OH
New Orleans, LA
San Francisco, CA

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1870 Census Form Image

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

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1870 Census Questions

  1. Number of dwelling house, by order of visitation from enumerator
  2. Number of family, by order of visitation from enumerator
  3. Name
  4. Age
  5. Sex
  6. Color: Enumerators could mark “W” for White, “B” for Black, “M” for Mulatto, “C” for Chinese [a category which included all east Asians], or “I” for American Indian.
  7. Profession, occupation, or trade
  8. Value of real estate
  9. Value of personal estate
  10. Place of birth: State or territory of the United States or foreign country
  11. Was the person’s father of foreign birth?
  12. Was the person’s mother of foreign birth?
  13. If the person was born within the last year, which month?
  14. If the person was married within the last year, which month?
  15. Did the person attend school within the last year?
  16. Can the person not read?
  17. Can the person not write?
  18. Is the person deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic?
  19. Is the person a male citizen of the United States of 21 years or upwards?
  20. Is the person a male citizen of the United States of 21 years or upwards whose right to vote is denied or abridged on grounds other than “rebellion or other crime?”

United States Census Bureau, Index of Questions: 1870

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Where can I find the 1870 census?

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How to Read the 1870 Census

For the first time, this census asked yes-or-no questions about whether each person’s parents were foreign-born. Don’t overlook this column if you’re trying to identify the offspring of early 1800s US immigrants.

Another two easily missed columns ask for the month of birth for babies born within the year, and for the month of marriage for couples wed within the year. If you have an ancestor born or married in the latter half of 1869 or the first half of 1870, here’s a little genealogical bonus.

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

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1870 Census Research Resources

Websites

Census.gov
1870 Fast Facts
1870 Overview
1870 Index of Questions

Cyndi’s List
1870 U.S. Federal Census Online Records and Indexes

FamilySearch Wiki
United States Census 1870

RootsWeb
1870 U.S. Census

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