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Source Information

Ancestry.com. 1820 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: Fourth Census of the United States, 1820. (NARA microfilm publication M33, 142 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

About 1820 United States Federal Census

This database details those persons enumerated in the 1820 United States Federal Census, the Fourth Census of the United States. In addition, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to the actual images of the 1820 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration microfilm, M33, 142 rolls. (If you do not initially find the name on the page that you are linked to, try a few pages forward or backward, as sometimes different pages had the same page number.)

Enumerators of the 1820 census were asked to include the following categories in the census: name of head of household, number of free white males and females in age categories: 0 to 10, 10 to 16, 16 to 26, 26 to 45, 45 and older; number of other free persons except Indians not taxed; number of slaves; and town or district and county of residence. Additionally, the 1820 census for the first time asked the number of free white males 16 to 18; number of persons to be naturalized; number engaged in agriculture, commercial, or manufacture; number of "colored" persons (sometimes in age categories); and number of other persons except Indians. The categories allowed Congress to determine persons residing in the United States for collection of taxes and the appropriation of seats in the House of Representatives. Most entries are arranged in the order of visitation, but some have been rearranged to appear in alphabetical order by initial letter of the surname. Manufacturing schedules are scattered among the 1820 population schedules.

Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do the U.S. federal censuses. The population schedules are successive "snapshots" of Americans that depict where and how they were living at particular periods in the past. Because of this, the census is often the best starting point for genealogical research after home sources have been exhausted.

The United States was the first country to call for a regularly held census. The Constitution required that a census of all "Persons...excluding Indians not taxed" be performed to determine the collection of taxes and the appropriation of seats in the House of Representatives. The first nine censuses from 1790-1870 were organized under the United States Federal Court system. Each district was assigned a U.S. marshal who hired other marshals to administer the census. Governors were responsible for enumeration in territories.

The official enumeration day of the 1820 census was 7 August 1820. All questions asked were supposed to refer to that date. The count was due within six months, but the due date was extended by law to allow completion within thirteen months. By 1820, there were a total of twenty-three states in the Union. The six new states were Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama and Maine. There was, however, a district wide loss for Arkansas Territory, Missouri Territory and New Jersey. Partial losses included half the counties in Alabama, and roughly 20 eastern Tennessee counties supervised by the Federal Court District out of Knoxville. Some of the schedules for these states have been re-created using tax lists and other records.

Taken from Chapter 5: Research in Census Records, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).

William Dollarhide, The Census Book: A Genealogist's Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes, Heritage Quest: Bountiful, UT, 2000.

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