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1880 Census Records Research Guide

By Family Tree Editors

Table of Contents

Happily for genealogists, the 1880 census continued this interest in “nativity.” Besides asking the individual’s birthplace, questions also asked the birthplaces of the person’s father and mother.

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.
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1880 Census Fast Facts

OFFICIAL
DATE

June 1

NUMBER OF
QUESTIONS

26

NUMBER OF
STATES

38

DECENNIAL
CENSUS NUMBER

10th

NOTABLE
QUESTIONS

Relationship to head of household
Marital status: single, married, widowed or divorced
Married within the census year

10 LARGEST CITIES

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

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1880 Census Form Image

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

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1880 Census Questions

  1. Number of dwelling home, in order of visitation by the enumerator
  2. Number of family, in order of visitation by the enumerator
  3. Name
  4. Color: Enumerators were to mark “W” for White, “B” for Black, “Mu” for Mulatto, “C” for Chinese [a category which included all east Asians], of “I” for American Indian
  5. Sex
  6. Age
  7. If the person was born within the census year, what was the month?
  8. Relationship to the head of the family
  9. Is the person single?
  10. Is the person married?
  11. Is the person widowed or divorced?: Enumerators were to mark “W” for widowed and “D” for divorced
  12. Was the person married within the census year?
  13. Profession, occupation, or trade
  14. Number of months the person had been employed within the census year
  15. Was, on the day of the enumerator’s visit, the person was sick or disabled so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties? If so, what was the sickness or disability?
  16. Was the person blind?
  17. Was the person deaf and dumb?
  18. Was the person idiotic?
  19. Was the person insane?
  20. Was the person maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled?
  21. Had the person attended school in the past year?
  22. Can the person not read?
  23. Can the person not write?
  24. What was the person’s place of birth?
  25. What was the person’s father’s place of birth?
  26. What was the person’s mother’s place of birth?

United States Census Bureau, Index of Questions: 1880

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Where can I find the 1880 census?

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How to Read the 1880 Census

Here again, the 1880 enumeration lets you reach back in time, providing answers that were missing from earlier forms. For instance, I can’t find my third-great-grandmother Amy Uptegrove on any census because she died young—before that breakthrough 1850 census. But from her son John Ashley Stowe’s 1880 census return, I learn she was born in North Carolina.

The 1880 questionnaire also added the genealogically important question of each person’s relationship to the head of household. You might assume that everybody in the family is a spouse, son or daughter of the head of household, but often nieces, nephews, grandparents and other kin moved in with relatives. Thanks to the 1880 questionnaire, you can figure out who’s who. Similarly and perhaps surprisingly, 1880 was the first census to specifically ask marital status, with columns for single, married, widowed and divorced. It also asked whether married within the census year, but not for the month.

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

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1880 Census Research Resources

Websites

Census.gov
1880 Fast Facts
1880 Overview
1880 Index of Questions

Cyndi’s List
1880 U.S. Federal Census Online Records and Indexes

FamilySearch Wiki
United States Census 1880

RootsWeb
1880 U.S. Census

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