Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Couple of Tips for Working with the Early Censuses

Are you tired of doing the math when looking at the 1790-1840 censuses? All you need to do is print out blank census forms for the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830 and 1840. Turn them sideways and then write in the years of birth. For example, on the 1800 in the age blanks you will have this:
Under age 10, 1791-1800
Age 10 to under 16, 1785-1790
Age 16 to under 26, 1775-1784
Age 26 to under 45, 1756-1774
Age 45 and over, before 1756

You can get free blank forms at FamilySearch or at Heritage Quest. When you are looking at one of these censuses, you can see what the date of birth range is at a glance without having to do any mental math (or in my case calculator math). I have the pages in sheet protectors and I pull them out whenever I need them.

If you click on Heritage Quest you will see an extra bonus. On the left side look for the 1790-1840 worksheet. If you have a family in the 1790-1840 censuses you can follow each person and narrow their dates of birth down significantly. This works because the censuses have different age ranges. You can also isolate each individual child through the censuses. You will be able to see who is missing (died or married). I label unknown children as Male 1, Male 2, Male 3, Female 1, Female 2 etc. and follow them through the census. This works especially well if you have the family in the 1950. Then you can follow them backward and pick up extra children you didn't know about along the way. The 1790-1840 worksheet has the censuses lined up in such a way that you are able to see the narrowing birth date ranges as you go through the census. I know that sounds a bit complicated so here is an example. I am going to isolate just one person, Martha Key. I will then show you how her birth date narrows.

1800 Edgefield County, SC
1 free white female under age 10 [1791-1800]

1810 Edgefield County, SC
1 free white female age 16 to under 26 [1785-1794]

1820 Edgefield County, SC
1 free white female age 26 to under 45 [1776-1794]

1830 Edgefield County, SC
1 free white female age 30 to under 40 [1791-1800]

1840 Edgefield County, NC
1 free white female age 40 to under 40 [1791-1800]

Looking at these dates I can narrow Martha's date of birth to 1791-1794. That is much narrower than just looking at one census year. Martha was born 1791. You can actually tweak it even more if you take into consideration the actual day the census was taken. There is an explanation sheet that goes along with the worksheet that explains this.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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