United States 1860 Census, United Kingdom 1851 Census
by Mandy Mathews, Family Historian
Last week we looked at the 1850 U.S. census and the 1841 U.K. census. Moving forward to the next respective censuses that were taken, what can the 1860 U.S. census and the 1851 U.K. census offer you in your family history research? As mentioned last week, the questions asked by the census takers changed from year to year.
In the United States, the 1860 census asked for the following information:
- The name of every person whose usual place of abode on the first day of June, 1860, was in this family - NOTE – the wording used was “usual” – meaning the individual wasn’t necessarily in the home at that time
- Description: Age, Sex, Race (White, Black, or Mulatto)
- Profession, Occupation, or Trade of each male person over 15 years of age
- Value of Real Estate
- Value of Personal Estate
- Place of birth, naming the state, territory, or country
- Married within the year
- Attended school within the year
- Persons over twenty years of age who could not read and write
- Whether deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict
When obtaining information from a census, it is important to note where the census is being taken. It may seem obvious, but often times we get so excited about the information we have found, we forget to document where we found it. Make sure you write down the location of the census and the page number wouldn’t hurt. I think the more details, the better!
The 1851 census for the United Kingdom contains the following:
- Name of street, place, or road and name or no. of house
- Name and surname of each person who abode in the house, on the night of the 30th of March 1851
- Relation to head of family
- Condition – NOTE – This referred to the individual's marital status; married, single, widowed, etc.
- Age (recorded in a column to designate male or female)
- Rank, Profession, or Occupation
- Where born
- Whether blind, deaf, or dumb
One of the major additions to the 1851 U.K. census was the “Relation to head of family” column. This allows you to establish families. One thing to note about the United Kingdom census is that you have to allow a large margin of variance in the age column. Reporting age was often difficult; people didn’t keep track of how old they were. If they were poor or from the lower working class, they may not have known what year they were born. Remember, they weren’t carrying driver’s licenses in their pockets.
As a general rule of thumb, always take the information you find on the census with a grain of salt and allow for mistakes. The census is a valuable genealogical tool, if used correctly. Allow it to give you leads and fill in holes, but please don’t use it as an absolute source. Take the information you find on the census as a hint or a clue, and then use it to lead you to more documentation. When all is said and done, the census is probably one of the best places to start your research because it recorded the largest number of people. Using the census is fun and can quickly put you on the path to finding more about your ancestors.