Agricultural, Mortality, Slave and other Special Schedules of the U.S. Census

From Kimberly Powell, your Guide to Genealogy

john_blackwell_1880_census_tnSpecial federal non-population schedules (censuses conducted for a purpose other than counting the entire U.S. population) can be an untapped gold mine for family historians. Agricultural, manufacturing, and mortality censuses may provide information on recently deceased individuals, or fascinating details of an ancestor’s occupation. Other special censuses enumerated slaves, military veterans and their widows, Native Americans, and even deaf couples.

Mortality Schedules: These special schedules were conducted in conjunction with the regular population census to record information about individuals who died during the twelve months prior to the census. If the census was taken on 1 June 1850, the enumerator would ask if anyone in the household had died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850, and would gather information on name, age, sex, color, marital status, birthplace, occupation, month of death and cause of death. With few exceptions, mortality schedules survive only for the census years of 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Some are indexed in book form. Others may be indexed on microfiche. Some are digitized and available online through major genealogy websites such as FamilySearch.or and Ancestry.com.

Agriculture Schedules: Farmers that produced more than $100 worth of products (up to $500 by 1870 on farms larger than 3 acres) were asked every decade from 1840 through 1910 to provide census takers with information about their farms, crops and livestock. Agricultural scheduless don’t provide much in the way of “genealogical” information, such as proof of relationships, but they can provide a lot of interesting background information about the individuals who were enumerated. Agriculture schedules can also help fill-in gaps when tax and other land records cannot be located, as well as helping to better identify property found in estate inventories, and assisting in distinguishing between individuals of the same name. For a variety of reasons, the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 agricultural schedules are the only ones widely available for research.
More: Research in Agricultural Schedules of the U.S. Census

Manufacturing & Industry Schedules: Manufacturing, mining, fishing, commercial, and trading businesses that produced more than $500 worth of goods or services were asked to report on the type and operation of their business. Information found on these schedules might include such things as the types and quantities of raw materials used in the operation of the business, to the number of women and men employed. Some of these were very small operations, so you may find information on ancestors who you weren’t aware ran a side business, such as a flour mill or candle making operation. Manufacturing schedules are available to researchers for 1820 and 1850–1880. Many can be found online.

Slave Schedules: Slaves were enumerated separately in the southern slave-holding states for the census years 1850 and 1860. In most cases, slaves were not identified by name, but only distinguished only by age, sex, color and the name of the slave owner. Slave schedules are useful for learning more about slave-holding ancestors enumerated in the corresponding population schedules of 1850 and 1860, as well as for correlating with other information to help identify potential slave owners when researching African American ancestors.

Veterans Schedules (1840 & 1890): The 1840 Census of Pensioners, which recorded information on living Revolutionary War veterans, was collected as part of the 1840 census. You can find it recorded on the back of the regular 1840 population schedules. The 1890 Special Census of Civil War Union Veterans and their Widows was designed to collect information only on Union veterans and widows, but occasionally Confederate veterans were also included. This census is available for states from the second alphabetical half of Kentucky to the end of the alphabet. 1890 Veterans schedules for Alabama through the first half of Kentucky were destroyed along with the rest of the 1890 population schedules and are not available.

Social Statistics Schedules: Social statistics schedules gathered statistical information on communities and do not provide any information about individuals. They are, however, a great resource for learning more about the history of and life in your ancestors’ communities. Among the information these schedules contain are lists of cemeteries within city boundaries (including maps); lists of churches with some accompanying organizational history; lists of organizations, societies, and groups; and average wages paid to farm hands, day laborers, carpenters, and female domestics.

Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent (DDD) Schedules: The 1880 federal census included seven supplemental schedules that collected additional information on individuals from the population census who were identified as belonging to one of the following classes: insane, idiots, blind, deaf mutes, paupers and indigent persons, homeless children, and prisoners. Ancestry.com has the 1880 DDD schedules online for twenty+ states. Ancestry also has the Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888–1895, which includes information drawn from questionnaires distributed to deaf couples and their hearing relatives as part of a study conducted by the Volta Bureau in Washington, D.C.