Monday, April 26, 2010

Methodology Monday with nonpopulation census schedules

Ancestry has started putting up the nonpopulation US census schedules, including my favorites, the agriculture schedules for 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. If the link doesn't work, look for them in the census list, but not under U, C, or A -- they're under S for Selected, because not all states are up yet.

These records have been notoriously hard to find, and notoriously ignored by many genealogists, so this is great news. But don't forget to mess around with them and get acquainted before searching. When I did that, I discovered that at least two Michigan counties were improperly filmed for 1850 and 1860. Berrien and Hillsdale include only the left side of the mammoth double-page spread. Half the questions is still better than nothing, but not quite as advertised. I saw no similar problem in Fulton County, Illinois, for 1870, or Allegany County, New York, for 1880.

Always look that gift horse in the mouth.

Also: don't assume that everyone listed as "farmer" in the population schedule will get an entry in the ag schedule. There were much more precise thresholds for the ag schedule. And some folks who appear only once in the population schedule may appear twice in the ag schedule, I suspect because of their involvement in different farms.

The real fun with these is comparing one individual against his (occasionally her) neighbors, and against him/herself in later and earlier years. Also you can get an idea of the county average from published federal and state agriculture statistical summaries.

Even if you have zero interest in your ancestor's agricultural proclivities, these nonpopulation schedules may give you a second chance at deciphering his/her name, in a different handwriting. Enjoy!

3 comments:

Jessica's thoughts said...

Hi Harold,

I also noticed that a couple of other Michigan counties were missing the second page. My guess is that side is missing for all of Michigan's counties.

Thanks,

Jessica

Kelly H. said...

I didn't realize they were putting these up, they are great if you can find one of your ancestors in them! Thanks Harold!

Jean said...

After I read your post I found the 1880 ag. schedule for Klickitat County, Washington Territory, also had only the one side at Ancestry. They are a wonderful resource though.