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1840 Census Records

The 1840 population census was the Sixth 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 1840 Census

Why was the 1840 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, June 1, 1840.

When was it taken?

The census began on Monday, June 1, 1840, and was finished within five months, under the rules and directions established in an Act of Congress approved March 3, 1839 ( “An Act to provide for taking the sixth census or enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States,” 5 Statutes at Large 331 ), amended on February 26, 1840 (5 Statutes at Large 368) and January 14, 1841 (5 Statutes at Large 411). The two amendments corrected errors and omissions in the original act.

Who was counted? 

The law required "That every person whose usual place of abode shall be in any family on [June 1, 1840], 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 the division where he or she shall be on [June 1, 1840], 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 John Forsyth 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 marshal took an oath or affirmation that "I will truly and faithfully cause to be made a full 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, entitled, 'An act to provide for taking the sixth census or enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States,' according to the best of my ability."  Each assistant marshal took an oath or affirmation that "I will make a just, faithful, and perfect enumeration and description of all persons, resident within the division assigned to me for that purpose ... according to the best of my ability, and that I will take the said enumeration and description by actual inquiry at every dwelling house within said division, or personal inquiry of the head of every family, and not otherwise." 
  • 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, obliged to render to the assistant [marshal] ... if required, a true account, to the best of his or her knowledge, of every person belonging to such family ... on pain of forfeiting twenty dollars...."

What questions did the census ask?

  • Free White Persons
    • Name of head of family
    • Number of free white males under 5 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 5 and under 10 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 10 and under 15 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 15 and under 20 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 20 and under 30 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 30 and under 40 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 40 and under 50 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 50 and under 60 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 60 and under 70 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 70 and under 80 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 80 and under 90 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 90 and under 100 years of age
    • Number of free white males of 100 years of age and upwards
    • Number of free white females under 5 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 5 and under 10 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 10 and under 15 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 15 and under 20 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 20 and under 30 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 30 and under 40 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 40 and under 50 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 50 and under 60 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 60 and under 70 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 70 and under 80 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 80 and under 90 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 90 and under 100 years of age
    • Number of free white females of 100 years of age and upwards
  • Free Colored Persons
    • Number of free colored males under 10 years of age
    • Number of free colored males of 10 and under 24 years of age
    • Number of free colored males of 24 and under 36 years of age
    • Number of free colored males of 36 and under 55 years of age
    • Number of free colored males of 55 and under 100 years of age
    • Number of free colored males of 100 years of age and upwards
    • Number of free colored females under 10 years of age
    • Number of free colored females of 10 and under 24 years of age
    • Number of free colored females of 24 and under 36 years of age
    • Number of free colored females of 36 and under 55 years of age
    • Number of free colored females of 55 and under 100 years of age
    • Number of free colored females of 100 years of age and upwards
  • Slaves
    • Number of male slaves under 10 years of age
    • Number of male slaves of 10 and under 24 years of age
    • Number of male slaves of 24 and under 36 years of age
    • Number of male slaves of 36 and under 55 years of age
    • Number of male slaves of 55 and under 100 years of age
    • Number of male slaves of 100 years of age and upwards
    • Number of female slaves under 10 years of age
    • Number of female slaves of 10 and under 24 years of age
    • Number of female slaves of 24 and under 36 years of age
    • Number of female slaves of 36 and under 55 years of age
    • Number of female slaves of 55 and under 100 years of age
    • Number of female slaves of 100 years of age and upwards
  • Total (in each household)
  • Number of Persons in Each Family Employed in
    • Mining
    • Agriculture
    • Commerce
    • Manufactures and trades
    • Navigation of the ocean
    • Navigation of canals, lakes, and rivers
    • Learned professions and engineers
  • Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services, included in the foregoing
    • Name
    • Age
  • Deaf and Dumb, Blind, and Insane White Persons, included in the foregoing
    • Deaf and Dumb under age 14
    • Deaf and Dumb of 14 and under 25 years of age
    • Deaf and Dumb of 25 years of age and upwards
    • Blind
    • Insane and idiots at public charge
    • Insane and idiots at private charge
  • Deaf and Dumb, Blind, and Insane Colored Persons, included in the foregoing
    • Deaf and Dumb
    • Blind
    • Insane and idiots at private charge
    • Insane and idiots at public charge
  • Schools, etc.
    • Number of Universities or Colleges
    • Number of Students
    • Number of Academies & Grammar Schools
    • Number of Students
    • Number of Primary and Common Schools
    • Number of Students
    • Number of Scholars at public charge
    • Number free white persons over 20 years of age who cannot read and write

What did the census form look like? 

 The Federal Government provided blank printed forms to the U.S. Marshals.  There may be annotations such as certificates of oaths taken, population totals, and handwritten and mechanically-stamped page numbers.  The form consisted of two pages.  This is the left-hand form:

refer to caption

1840 Census Form - Left Page

The 1840 census form consisted of two pages. This is the left side page.

This is the right-hand form:

refer to caption

1840 Census Form - Right Page

The 1840 census form consisted of two pages. This is the right-side page.

What states and territories are included in the census? 

Surviving records include census schedules for Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Special notes:

  • Alexandria County, Virginia, was part of the District of Columbia
  • West Virginia was part of Virginia.

Are some 1840 census records missing? 

Yes.  There are no schedules for Clarendon County, South Carolina.  It is possible that individual census pages for other locations were lost before they were bound in volumes in the early 1900s.

Where can I see the original 1840 census schedules?  

Digital images of National Archives Microfilm Publication M704, Sixth Census of the United States, 1840 (580 rolls), can be seen on popular genealogy websites, including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and others. 

 

 
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