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Source Information

Ancestry.com. 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. (NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

About 1840 United States Federal Census

This database details those persons enumerated in the 1840 United States Federal Census, the Sixth Census of the United States. In addition, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to the actual images of the 1840 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration microfilm, M704, 580 rolls. Each name is associated with two images as the 1840 census schedule was two pages long. Be sure to view the image on which you find your ancestor's name as well as the following image, which should be the continuing census page, in order to obtain all possible information about your ancestor.

Enumerators of the 1840 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 5, 5 to 10, 10 to 15, 15 to 20, 20 to 30, 30 to 40, 40 to 50, 50 to 60, 60 to 70, 70 to 80, 80 to 90, 90 to 100, over 100; the name of a slave owner and the number of slaves owned by that person; the number of male and female slaves and free "colored" persons by age categories; the number of foreigners (not naturalized) in a household; the number of deaf, dumb, and blind persons within a household; and town or district, and county of residence.

Additionally, the 1840 census, asked for the first time, the ages of revolutionary war pensioners and the number of individuals engaged in mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and trade, navigation of the ocean, navigation of canals, lakes and rivers, learned professions and engineers; number in school, number in family over age twenty-one who could not read and write, and the number of insane. 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.

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 1840 census was 1 June 1840. All questions asked were supposed to refer to that date. The count was due within nine months, but the due date was extended by law to allow completion within eighteen months. By 1840, there were a total of twenty-six states in the Union, with Arkansas and Michigan being the latest additions. The two new territories of Wisconsin and Iowa were also enumerated.

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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