Research Our Records

1800 Census Records

The 1800 population census was the First Decennial Census of the United States. Taken every 10 years since 1790, census records provide a snapshot of the nation's population. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the 1800 Census

Why was the 1800 Census taken?

The U.S. Constitution was ratified September 17, 1787.  Article I, Section 2, established that representation in the U.S. House of Representatives was based on population determined by a census taken at 10 year intervals: "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they [Congress] shall by Law Direct."

What was the official census day? 

Monday, August 4, 1800.

When was it taken?

The census began on Monday, August 4, 1800, and was finished within 9 months, under the rules and directions established in an Act of Congress approved February 28, 1800 ( “An Act providing for the second Census or enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States,” 2 Statutes at Large 11).

Who was counted? 

The law required "That every person whose usual place of abode shall be in any family on [August 4, 1800], shall be returned as of such family, and the name of every person, who shall be an inhabitant of any district or territory, but without a settled place of residence, shall be inserted in the column of the aforesaid schedule, which is allotted for the heads of families, in that division where he or she shall be on [August 4, 1800], and every person occasionally absent at the time of the enumeration, as belonging to that place in which he usually resides in the United States."

Who was involved?

  • Secretaries of State John Marshall (1800-1801) and James Madison (1801-1809) had general supervision of census operations and tabulating and reporting the results to the President and Congress.
  • The U.S. Marshal for each Federal judicial district was responsible for taking the census in his district with the help of assistant marshals whom he appointed. Each took an oath or affirmation that "I will well and truly cause to be made, a just and perfect enumeration and description of all persons resident within my district or territory, and return the same to the Secretary of State, agreeably to the directions of an act of Congress, intitualed [sic, entitled], 'An act providing for the enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States,' according to the best of my ability."
  • Every free person over age 16 was required to cooperate: "That each and every free person more than sixteen years of age, whether heads of families or not ... shall be, and hereby is obligated to render to such assistant of the division, a true account, if required, to the best of his or her knowledge, of all and every person belonging to such family ... on pain of forfeiting twenty dollars...."

What questions did the census ask?

  • Name of head of family
  • Number of free white males under 10 years of age
  • Number of free white males of 10 and under 16 years of age
  • Number of free white males of 16 and under 26 years of age
  • Number of free white males of twenty six and under 45 years of age
  • Number of free white males of 45  years of age and upwards
  • Number of free white females under 10 years of age
  • Number of free white females of 10 and under 16 years of age
  • Number of free white females of 16 and under 26 years of age
  • Number of free white females of twenty six and under 45 years of age
  • Number of free white females of 45  years of age and upwards
  • Number of all other free persons, except Indians, not taxed [free African-Americans]
  • Number of slaves

What did the census form look like? 

The Federal Government did not provide blank printed forms to the U.S. Marshals.   Uniform printed forms were used only if supplied by the U.S. Marshal at his own expense to his assistants.  Otherwise, the assistant marshals used whatever paper was available, and recorded the information by hand in the format required by Congress shown below:

refer to caption

1800 Census Form

These were the questions asked on the 1800 census.

 

There are annotations on and attachments to these schedules, such as certificates of oaths taken and population totals.  Later annotations include handwritten and mechanically-stamped page numbers. 

What states are included in the census? 

Surviving records include census schedules for Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont.  Special notes:

  • Maine was part of Massachusetts in 1800.
  • The Secretary of the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio was in charge of the census in his jurisdiction and the few surviving schedules for Washington County have been reproduced in National Archives Microfilm Publication M1804, Second Census of the United States, 1800:  Population Schedules, Washington County, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, and Population Census, 1803:  Washington County, Ohio (1 roll) (NAID 147968170).  Townships included for 1800 are Adams, Belpre, Gallipolis, Marietta, Middletown, Newport, Newtown, Salem, and Waterford.
  • The Secretary of Mississippi Territory was in charge of the census in his jurisdiction but those census schedules are no longer extant.

Are some 1800 census records missing? 

Yes.  There are no schedules for the states of Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the Territory of Mississippi, and large portions of the mostly unsettled Territory Northwest of the River Ohio.  Under the provisions of the 1800 census act, only numerical population totals were forwarded by the U.S. Marshals and Secretaries of the territories to the Secretary of State.  From 1790 to 1820, the original population schedules were to be deposited with the clerks of district courts (or superior courts in the territories), "who were to receive and carefully preserve the same."  On May 28, 1830, a Congressional resolution (4 Statutes at Large 430), directed the clerks of the district courts to forward the population schedules for the first four censuses to the Secretary of State.  It is known that the 1790 schedules for Rhode Island were forwarded to Washington on June 22, 1830, as a result of the May 28 resolution.  Presumably other extant population schedules, 1790-1820, were forwarded at about the same time, but no documentation of such action has been found.  It is possible that individual census pages for other locations were lost between 1830 and when they were bound in volumes in the early 1900s.

Where can I see the original 1800 census schedules?  

  • Digital images of National Archives Microfilm Publication M32, Second Census of the United States, 1800 (52 rolls), can be seen on popular genealogy websites, including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and others. 
  • Digital images of the “1803” segment of National Archives Microfilm Publication M1804, Second Census of the United States, 1800:  Population Schedules, Washington County, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, and Population Census, 1803:  Washington County, Ohio (1 roll) (NAID 147968170) are available in the National Archives Catalog. 

 

 
History Hub H

 

Find answers to your census questions on History Hub

 

Top