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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 ($).


The Population Schedule 1850-1930

The 1850 census was the year of transition. This is the first United States census that listed all free persons individually, with personal information about each individual. Beyond placing a person in specific time and place, the 1850 census gave other specific information that can be used to determine or better define an individual’s occupation or life’s work.

This census year is very useful in matching the various columns of the 1840 population schedule to the individuals in the household. The year 1850 marks the change from tally marks to a name.

Each year from 1850 to 1930 is different, questions were added then dropped as the nation grew and life changed due to war and immigration. However, in general more personal information was included as the years passed.

The Agriculture Schedule 1850-1880

The Agriculture Schedule is an often-overlooked resource; however, it can offer a detailed description of the products of a specific farm and farmer. The Agriculture Schedules are available for the years 1850-1885 (some states included an Agriculture Schedule in the 1885 returns). This non-population schedule was taken until 1910. However, the remaining schedules were destroyed by fire (1890) and Congressional Order (1900-1910). Even though not all schedules have survived a list of states and locations are available.

An individual did not have to own the land to be included on this schedule. Do not ignore this schedule just because the population schedule indicated no land value. If the occupation was listed as farmer then it will be necessary to track down the corresponding agriculture schedule.

All of the questions of this schedule pertain to the occupation of the individual. It is important to understand the question asked by the enumerator as well as the livestock and produce terms. If a term, such as Milch Cow or Water-Rotted Hemp is confusing, research these meanings in context to the period of time that you are researching. Often a simple Google search will produce the results.

Most of these schedules are not indexed and most are not online. It will be necessary to first locate a person on the population schedule, determine the township, county and state and then review all the names for that area until the individual is located.

If an individual is listed as a “farmer” on the population schedule and you can not locate this individual on the Agriculture Schedule follow a few simple steps:

  1. Verify you are searching the same town, precinct etc., as the Population Schedule.
  2. Review all the listings using only the first name of the individual.
  3. Locate on the Agriculture Schedule, all the neighboring “farmers” from the Population Schedule.
  4. If they are listed and not the farmer you are researching, then you might be out of luck.
  5. If an entire area is missing then check other Agriculture Schedules that the same enumerator completed. The pages might be labeled incorrectly for the town or precinct or the enumerator simply placed the names on the incorrect page.
  6. The individual might not have been enumerated on the Agriculture Schedule.
  7. The original was lost, destroyed or not filmed.

The Industry or Manufacturer Schedule 1850-1880

This schedule was known as the Industry Schedule from 1850-1870 and returned to the previous name of Manufacturer’s Schedule in 1880. The 1885 Industry Schedule is limited to only five states/territories. The Manufacturer Schedule for dates after 1885 were destroyed by Congressional Order. Not all schedules for the available time have survived. A search will need to be completed to determine availability and location of records.

These schedules collected data on all activity over $500 in manufacturing, fisheries, mining, as well as the mercantile, commercial and trading businesses. This would account for many of the other occupations farming.

Blacksmiths, tailors, gold miners, or milliner etc., working for themselves would be listed on this schedule, possibly under their own name. If the individual being researched is an employee, then it will be necessary to locate the name of the company and then locate that company on the Industry Schedule to determine the size and type of business.

Most of these schedules are not indexed. It will be necessary to first locate a person on the population schedule, determine the township, county and state and then review all the names for that area until the individual or company is located.

The information that is gathered from the industry schedule will be beneficial in the research of an occupation depending on what is located on this schedule. From the night watchman at a large industrial company to the small mining operation with two employees, you will have a detail of what the products were of a specific industry.

Social Statistics Schedule 1850-1870

The information gathered on the Social Statistics Schedule pertains to the whole community, thus they are not usually utilized for individual research. The data from this schedule can be of importance if the individual worked or volunteered in one of the following:

  • ŸLibrary Ÿ
  • Newspapers or Periodicals
  • ŸChurches
  • ŸSchools, Colleges etc.

The researcher with the aid of the Social Statistic Schedule can have details or statistics of the number of members in a church, the circulation of a newspaper and whether it was neutral, political or religious in nature or the numbers of books in the library. This is useful information when researching the occupation of a minister, newspaper editor or the town librarian. This is statistical data, based on a time and place. This is not information passed on by the family, reported in county history books or otherwise slanted for personal benefit or glory.

Slave Schedules 1850-1860

This schedule was only produced for the census years 1850-1860 for the southern states. Previously this information was located on the Population Schedule with a tally mark in the appropriate column for each family.

The only name listed on the Slave Schedule is the owner (sometimes this is a person leasing the slave for use on their farm). The occupation or name of the slaves is not listed although there are exceptions to this rule, as with all other schedules some enumerators felt that the added information was necessary. These exceptions often come as a benefit.

The information includes:

  • Name of Slave Owner
  • Description:
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Fugitives from the State
  • Number Manumitted
  • Deaf and Dumb, Blind, Insane or Idiotic

This schedule gives details to the labor used by a specific farm or industry.


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

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 16 September 2014, at 01:08.
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