This database details those persons enumerated in the 1850 United States Federal Census, the Seventh Census of the United States. In addition, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to the actual images of the 1850 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration microfilm, M432, 1009 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.)
For the first time in the history of the United States census, enumerators of the 1850 census were instructed to record the names of every person in the household. Added to this, enumerators were presented with printed instructions, which account for the greater degree of accuracy compared with earlier censuses. Enumerators were asked to include the following categories in the census: name; age as of the census day; sex; color; birthplace; occupation of males over age fifteen; value of real estate; whether married within the previous year; whether deaf-mute, blind, insane, or "idiotic"; whether able to read or write for individuals over age twenty; and whether the person attended school within the previous year. No relationships were shown between members of a household. 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 1850 Census includes the following states and territories: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota Territory (includes Dakota area), Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico Territory (includes Arizona area), New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon Territory (includes Washington and Idaho areas), Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah Territory, Vermont, Virginia (includes West Virginia counties), Wisconsin.
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 to 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 1850 census was 1 June 1850. All questions asked were supposed to refer to that date. By 1850, there were a total of thirty-one states in the Union, with Florida, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, and California being the latest editions. The four new territories of Oregon, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Utah were also enumerated. There were no substantial state- or district-wide losses.
Taken from Szucs, Loretto Dennis, "Research in Census Records." In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).
William Dollarhide, The Census Book: A Genealogist's Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes, Heritage Quest: Bountiful, Utah, 2000.