United States Census, 1840 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Population schedules consisted of large sheets with rows and columns. The schedules were arranged by place, such as township or post office. The places were not filed in any particular order. The arrangement of families on a schedule is normally in the order in which the enumerator visited the households. The original schedules are well preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. They were microfilmed in the 1950s and 1960s. The schedules for some counties in varying censuses are missing.
The U.S. federal census was conducted each decade from 1790 to the present. This information pertains to censuses conducted in 1840.
Federal census takers were asked to record information about every person who was in each household on the census day, which was June 1 for 1840. A census taker might have visited a house on a later date, but the information he collected was supposed to be about the people who were in the house on the census day. The basic census enumeration unit was the county. Each county was divided into enumeration districts, one for each enumerator. The completed forms were sent to the Commerce Department’s Census Office in Washington, D.C.
This censuses (1840) provides names for heads of household, for about 10 to 15 percent of the population, and provides only a number count for the others.
The U.S. federal census was taken at the beginning of every decade to apportion the number of representatives that a state could send to the House of Representatives.
Federal censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator. Information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or by a neighbor. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.
Citation For This Collection
The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org. Source citations include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.
- "United States Census, 1840." Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing "1840 United States Federal Census." Ancestry.com. www.ancestry.com : 2010.
The 1840 censuses included the following genealogical information:
- City, County and state in which census was taken
- Name of head of household
- Number of free white males and females under the age of 5
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 5-10
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 10-15
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 15-20
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 20-30
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 30-40
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 40-50
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 50-60
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 60-70
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 70-80
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 80-90
- Number of free white males and females between the ages of 90-100
- Number of free white males and females age 100 or older
- Sometimes, the name and age of Revolutionary War pensioners
How to Use the Record
Search the Collection
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the "Digital Folder Number"which takes you to the images
Look at the images one by one comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.
The U.S. federal census is the best source for quickly identifying the head of a household and may also identify persons for whom other records do not exist. However, you must know the name of an ancestor and sometimes the variant spellings of that name to search for a census entry.
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the census index. (Nationwide name indexes may be able to help you locate your ancestor even when you do not know the place of residence.) Use the locator information in the index (such as page number or family number) to locate your ancestors in the census. Be aware that as with any index, transcription errors may occur.
When you have located your ancestor in the census, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them.
You should follow the family through each available census. Again, carefully evaluate each piece of information about them. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. For example:
- Use the age categories to determine an approximate birth date range.
- Use the residence to locate other records such as land, probate, tax, and church records.
It is often helpful to extract the information on all families with the same surname in the same general area. If the surname is uncommon, it is likely that those living in the same area were related.
Be sure to extract all families before you look at other records. Put the information you know infor family groupings. The family groupings will help you identify related families when you discover additional information in other records.
Some other helpful tips to keep in mind are:
- Married family members may have lived nearby but in a separate household so you may want to search an entire town, neighboring towns, or even an entire county.
- You may be able to identify an earlier generation if elderly parents were living with or close by a married child.
- You may be able to identify a younger generation if a young married couple still lived with one of their sets of parents.
- Additional searches may be needed to locate all members of a particular family in the census.
Known Issues with This Collection
For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.
Related Wiki Articles
Contributions to This Article
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Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.
Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection
"United States Census, 1840," database and digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XHTF-K2X : accessed 11 April 2012), Nathaniel Mason (Albany, Strafford, New Hampshire).