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 1880 Census

(c) Linda Haas Davenport (Updated 2007)

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The Congress changed the rules for the 1880 census. In the past the taking of the census was handled by the US District Courts with a US Marshal in charge. A Census Bureau office was opened during the taking of the census and then closed after the count was complete. With the 1880 census the Congress gave the Census Bureau office control of the Census. They hired their own census takers and the US District Court and the State Department was removed from the census taking.

The Census Bureau set up "Enumeration Districts", using maps they blocked out areas and assigned those areas to an Enumeration Supervisor who was responsible for the counting of every person within the Enumeration District and who supervised the actual census takers. He was also responsible for making a copy of the schedules. An original and one copy were authorized by Congress. The originals were to be bound, by county, and were to stay in the county courthouse and the copy was sent, this time, directly to the Bureau of the Census in Washington. No longer did the census schedules travel from census taker, to US Marshall, to US District Court Clerks, to Department of State and then to Washington. The Census Bureau made sure the copy was made and made sure that the original schedules were deposited at the local courthouses. You will note that the original census schedules were still not sent to Washington, rather copies were sent.

The Census Bureau hired 5 times as many census takers in 1880 as were used in 1870. This resulted in a speeder census, but also insured, as much as possible, that every person got counted. And, the Census Bureau hired "experts" in the area of manufacturing, business, etc., to complete the supplemental schedules.

Ever since the 1790 Census people had objected to answering Census Takers questions, many feeling that the questions were an invasion of privacy. With the 1880 Census the Congress limited the amount of information that would be made available to the public. The Census Takers were required to hold all information received as "private" and couldn't divulge it to anyone. The original copies of the census that were deposited in the courthouses were to be kept private unless the person requesting information had a "need to know". This was the beginning of the 72 year privacy rule that would be enacted that caused the Census Records to be unavailable to the general public for 72 years



State ____ County _______ Township ________ Call No _____________


1880 Census Schedule


The example above is from an older abstract form. Many newer forms are available from several places, many of them on-line. The top of the form contains: State, County, City, Page, Enumeration District and Enumeration Date. The body of the schedule is broken down into the following sections: Section 1 - For cities only: Name of street; house number. Dwelling number in order of visitation; family number in order of visitation. Section 2 - The Name of each Person whose place of abode on 1st day of June 1880 was in this family. Section 3 - Personal Description: Color - White W; Black B; Mulato Mu; Chinese C; Indian I; If born within the census year give month; Relationship to head of this family - whether wife, son, daughter, servant, boarder or other. Section 4 - Civil Condition: Single; Married; Widowed, Divorced; Married during Census Year. Section 5 - Occupation: Profession, Occupation or Trade of each person, male or female; Number of months this person has been unemployed during the Census Year; Is the person (on the day of enumerator's visit) sick or temporarily disabled, so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties? If so, what is the sickness or disability? Section 6 - Health: Blind; Deaf and dumb; Idiotic; Insane; Maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled. Section 7 - Education: Attended school within the Census Year; Cannot read; Cannot write. Section 8 - Nativity: Place of Birth of the person, naming State or Territory of the United States or the Country if of foreign birth; Same information for the place of birth of the person's mother and father.

The Enumeration Date of the Census was 1 June 1880 with only 1 month to complete the census. This speedier count resulted in less people being missed than in any prior census.

Because almost all of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire most family historians are making a 20 year jump back to this one. Many family historians mistakenly believe that their ancestors didn't move around much but that's a fallacy. After the Civil War it seems as if families moved every few years and your family might have lived in several different places during the twenty years between the 1900 and this 1880 census. Once you locate your family members on this census consult as many old maps as possible to try to determine the route leading from the 1900 location to the 1880 one. Check the records of the counties on the route between the two locations. It was not unusual for a family to "stop awhile" in an area and then move on. If you are having trouble finding your family on the 1880 census use the same tactics - using maps figure out the most probably route of travel and check the county records of each county. Fortunately there are many indexes to the 1890 census many of which are on-line.

The 1880 census has much less information than any of the 1900s census schedules. However, this was the first census that asked for the relationship of people in the household to the head of household. This census also asked the birthplace of the person's mother and father. Keep an eye on the "relationship" column, relationships such as "niece" could mean the person was truly the niece of the wife, not the husband, or was the wife of either one's nephew, it still gives you more information than in prior censuses.

Go over every column of the schedules and check the information against the information from the prior censuses you researched. By this time you should be running into grandparents and great grandparents. Use the same research methods you used for the 1900 censuses. Look for locations, check for cemeteries, churches, newspapers, land records, etc. This census was only 20 years after the Civil War and many men were drawing pensions. Search for any information on military service. (Did you remember to check that on the 1900s census records?) Remember to search not just for your ancestor but for brothers, uncles, brother-in-laws, etc. If you can find a pension file for any extended family member you will find a lot of family information.

If your family shows they were married within the year you should search for marriage records. Occupation will point to Industry Schedules, Agriculture Schedules, etc. Once again, bear in mind that the "census year" ran from Jun 2nd of 1879 to June 1st of 1880. Don't discount a marriage record because of a difference in dates. The same is true of the "if born in census year". A child could have been born on Jun 2nd of 1879 and would have had a check mark in this column.

Between 1850 and 1880 there were a group of special schedules call the "Social Statistics" schedules. These included a listing of cemeteries within city boundaries, including maps with cemeteries marked; names and addresses and a general description of all cemeteries, procedures for interment, cemeteries no longer functioning and the reason for their closing. The schedules also list such things as trade societies, lodges, clubs, including names and addresses of officers of these groups. Churches were listed with a brief history, a statement of doctrine and policy and a statistical list of members. These schedules are scattered. Some have been microfilmed by the LDS, some are at the National Archives and some ended up at State Archives or large Universities. Although not easy to find they are a gold mine of information and well worth the effort it takes to unearth them.

Photography had become popular by the time of the 1880 census. Many a family historian has old photos with no names of the people in the photo. Match the photos to this census and to property tax lists - you might well come up with missing names. Property Tax lists reflect personal property, such as a watch, a piano, a couch, things that might show up in a photo.

The 1880 census is the first census to be indexed under the Soundex code. Even though the soundex cards list only families with children 10 years and under, when compared to the 1850-1870 census with practically no indexes this partial index seemed to be heaven sent just a couple of years ago. Now there are full name indexes available in several places. Locating any family member in the soundex can lead you to a county where you can scan each line to check all the families in the area.

Mortality Schedules, Industry Schedules and Agriculture Schedules were expanded and included more information. Once again, ferret out these schedules.

On the 1880 census there was an additional set of schedules: The "Supplemental Schedules 1-7: Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes. The following is quoted from an e-mail from the OKGen-L List (Oct 28, 1998)

"We are all aware that the federal population schedules enumerated individuals who were classified as "insane" or "idiots" (and there is a difference), those in prisons, those deaf and mute, blind, homeless children, and paupers and indigents. But 98% of all genealogists are unaware that the census takers in 1880 were required, after they had enumerated an individual who fell into one of these classifications, to then go to one of the 7 schedules set aside for these categories and ask additional, probing questions of these individuals, if they were capable of answering. The instructions to the census taker directed him to do so and provided the questions he was to ask. For an "insane inhabitant", for example, the census taker was to elicit the following data from the individual or his/her caretaker, in addition to what he had already enumerated on the regular population schedule:

Residence when at home; Form of illness; Is patient a paying patient?; Duration of present attack; Total number of attacks; Age at which first attack occurred; Does the person require to be usually or often kept in a cell?; Has this person ever been an inmate of any hospital or asylum for the insane and if so, where?; What has been the total length of time spent by him/her in his/her life in such asylums?; Is this person also an epileptic?; Is the person suicidal?; Is the person homicidal?

Another example I'll show is what was asked about homeless children:

Residence when at home; Is this child's father deceased?; Is this child's mother deceased?; Has this child been abandoned by his/her parents?; Has this child's parents surrendered the control over him/her to the institution?; Was the child born in this institution?; If not so born, state year when admitted; Is this child illegitimate?; Is this child separated from his/her living mother?; Has he/she ever been arrested? If so, for what alleged offense?; Has he/she ever been convicted or sentenced?; Has the origin of this child been respectable?; Has he/she been rescued from criminal surroundings?; Is this child blind?; Is he/she a deaf-mute?; If he/she an idiot?

This is marvelous anecdotal information at the very least, and can be very important insofar as addressing the question of where the person resides "when at home", and the census takers were admonished in the instructions, to realize that the mere fact that they are in an institution in one locale does not mean that they reside in that place.

The questions for paupers and indigents included such questions as: what other members of the person's family are in the establishment (such as a poorhouse), and it even gives separate lines for husband, wife, mother, father, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and many of the other questions noted above are also asked.

So, what do we do - now that we know about the DDD Schedules - when we next see a person who is of interest to us in the 1880 census, and the person is shown as indigent or pauper or homeless, or insane, etc.? We will know to go to the DDD Schedules and look for them again, and see if we can gain some additional information about them, as individuals, and about their family, their place of residence, and other items."

These schedules should be looked for first in the State Archives of the state your ancestors resided in. Or check with the Census Bureau to see where these schedules are located now.

 The 1880 Census is on 1,454 rolls. # T9. The Soundex Index is on 2,367 rolls of film and each state has it own film publication number - T734 through T780. The 1880 Soundex only includes families with children 10 years or younger. Families without children in that age group are NOT found in the Soundex Indexes.


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