1810 Census Records
The 1810 population census was the Third 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 1810 Census
Why was the 1810 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 6, 1810.
When was it taken?
The census began on Monday, August 6, 1810, and was finished within 9 months, under the rules and directions established in an Act of Congress approved March 26, 1810 ( “An Act providing for the third census or enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States,” 2 Statutes at Large 564 ).
Who was counted?
The law required "That every person whose usual place of abode shall be in any family on [August 6, 1810], shall be returned, as of such family; and the name of every person who shall be an inhabitant of any district or territory without a settled place of residence, shall be inserted in the column of the schedule, which is allotted for the heads of families, in that division where he or she shall be on [August 6, 1810]; 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?
- Secretary of State Robert Smith 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, entituled [sic, entitled] An act providing for the third census or enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States, according to the best of my ability."
- Every 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 [marshal] ... 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 26 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 26 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. There may be 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, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee (Rutherford County only), Vermont, and Virginia. Special notes:
- Maine was part of Massachusetts in 1810.
- The Secretaries of the Territories of Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, and Orleans (Louisiana) were in charge of the census in those jurisdictions.
Are some 1810 census records missing?
Yes. There are no schedules for the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois Territory, Indiana Territory, Michigan Territory, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, and most of Tennessee. Under the provisions of the 1810 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 1810 census schedules?
- Digital images of National Archives Microfilm Publication M252, Third Census of the United States, 1810 (71 rolls), can be seen on popular genealogy websites, including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and others.
- Digital images of the 1810 Census of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts (National Archives Identifier 205601220) are in the National Archives Catalog. Assistant Marshal Ebenezer Burrell began the enumeration of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, on the official census day, August 6, 1810, and completed it on August 29, 1810. At some point between 1810 and the 1940s (or earlier), these schedules were alienated from Federal custody and came into the possession of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, which turned them over to the National Archives in April 2021.
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