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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Occupational Records  by Beverly Rice, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

General Information

Census Schedule 1850 -1930

Beginning in 1850 the census enumerations were conducted with the emphasis on the individual and away from the family. In addition to the population, several other census schedules were produced directed toward specific information.

The schedules include:

  • Population (1850-1930)
  • Agriculture (1850-1880)
  • Industry or Manufacturer (1810; 1820; 1850-1880)
  • Mortality (1850-1880; 1900 for Minnesota only)
  • Social Statistics (1850-1870)
  • Defective, Dependent, Delinquent Classes (1880)
  • Slave (1850-1860)

The researcher must pay close attention to the description of the “Profession, Occupation or Trade” listed by the enumerator. The researcher must, for example, be able to distinguish between a Carpenter and a Master Carpenter; this fine detail could indicate the level of workmanship or skill of an individual. The enumerator might also indicate “something special” about a person’s personality or status in a community, such as is seen in the following census schedule listing for James Parchment.

1860 U.S. census, Hempstead County, Arkansas, population schedule, Mine Creek Township, Nashville post office, page 881, National Archives micropublication M653, roll 42.

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James O. Parchment is listed as a “Man of Pleasure”. Although this is an undefined occupation several things should be noted about James.

1. age is 18 years.
2. living in the Morrell household, and appears unrelated.
3. personal value is listed as $1800.
4. real estate value is listed as $0.
5. where did an 18 year old get a personal value of $1800?

What is the enumerator “saying” about James, with this occupation:

  • lazy individual
  • person with unknown means of income, not employed
  • with such a large “Value of Personal Estate” it is hard to think it means, “living off others”
  • possibly an individual that enjoys gambling, drinking and other forms of pleasure
  • this individual would not be listed on any other non-population schedules

The following is an example of multiple occupations being listed for an individual.

1860 U.S. census, Hempstead County, Arkansas, population schedule, Spring Hill Township, Spring Hill post office, page 301; National Archive micropublication M653, roll 42.

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This enumerator listed dual occupation for both Mr. Carlock and Mr. Bates. This census states that these gentlemen derive their income from both farming and ferryman and physician, respectively.

Looking at C.C. Bates population schedule what can be determined from this information about Mr. Bates on the population schedule.

1. His “Value of Real Estate” of $63,000 is high for a 30 year old; did he inherit if so from whom?

2. His “Value of Personal Estate” of $22,820 is high for a 30 year old; did he inherit, if so from whom?

3. Did Mr. Bates gain his wealth through his profession as a Physician?

4. Mr. Bates is listed as a Physician, where did he get his formal training?

5. Living in the Bates household is J.C. Walker, Overseer, does this indicate that Mr. Bates is a slave owner?

6. Did J.C. Walker manage the farm or did C.C. Bates?

The agriculture schedule for Hempstead County will need to be searched for C.C. Bates to determine acreage and crop type of the Bates farm.

The Slave Schedule for Hempstead County will need to be searched for C. C. Bates to determine if he is a slave owner.

Another unusual occupation includes the following:
David Ackerman Household [son Leslie], 1880 U.S. census, Juneau County, Wisconsin population schedule, town of Necedah, enumeration district 194 supervisor’s district 2 page 19, dwelling 157, family 162; National Archives micropublication T9, roll 1431, page 462D.

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The occupation for David Ackerman’s son Leslie was “In Jail”. Now that leads to ask more questions:

  • What was the occupation before “In Jail”?
  • Was Leslie truly living in the household, or was he in jail?

George Pettibone Household 1880 U.S. census, Juneau County, Wisconsin population schedule, town of Necedah, enumeration district 194 supervisor’s district 2 page 21, dwelling 173, family 178; National Archives micropublication T9, roll 1431, page 463A.

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The occupation for Waukoo Pettibone, line 11, was “keeps tent”, distinguishing her from other women who are listed as “keeps house”. However the other females in the household aged 25-21 are listed as “at home”.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: Occupational Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 14 January 2014, at 19:00.
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