This is a comprehensive tutorial for researching the 1840 U.S. federal census. You will be introduced to what I have used and shared with thousands to successfully find generations of family. Begin by learning how to use the census as a foundation to effective research, identify, map, and follow family through generations.
The tutorial will expand your knowledge and skills of how to conduct an exhaustive search to find genealogical and Family History records, repositories, resolve research problems and connect with resources researching similar lines.
The tutorial is divided into the following sections:
- 1790-1940 U.S federal census resources
- Introduction to 1840 U.S. federal census
- Clues and lessons learned from 1840 U.S. Federal census
- Military service and bounty land applications
- Defining the U.S. federal census
- Questions asked on the 1840 U.S. Federal census
Click on any of the following years and you will be taken to that years’ census tutorial:
- Download 1840 U.S. census research aids. Download and print the following resources to aid your census research.
- U.S. census learning aids. Throughout the 1840 U.S. federal census tutorial find links to resources that I have specifically prepared to help you. In addition, I have written and assembled 190+ articles and resource aids to provide you a more in-depth understanding of the census research process. I have tried to cover every possible question and angle that you are likely to face in your U.S. census research. I would encourage you to use the resources often. The category headings are as follows:
- 190+ U.S. federal census articles and resource aids
- U.S. federal census tutorials
- Census and genealogy forms
- Census research skills
- Follow ancestors through the census
- Researching names in the census
- Defining ancestor age
- Expanding census research to other resources
- Expand your census research with military records
- Census research best practices
- 190+ U.S. federal census articles and resource aids
1840 census day: June 1, 1840
1840 census duration: 18 months
1840 census geography:
- States and territories enumerated: 26 states and four territories were included in the census.
- New states: The newest states included the in 1840 were Arkansas and Michigan.
- Territories included: Florida, Iowa, Oregon (also part of Britain), Wisconsin
- The available states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia (inc. West Virginia)
- The missing states: No states missing
A few interesting facts about the 1840 census include:
- U.S. President. The president was Martin Van Buren.
- Pre-printed forms. This is the second census when the government provided pre-printed forms.
- Military question. First census to ask a military related question (captured name and age of Revolutionary War pensioners).
- Head of household. As the genealogist moves from 1940-1850, they have been able to see the actual names of family members. This is the last or the first census depending on how you view it that only the head of household is listed and members of the household are counted.
- Original or copy. Enumerators were asked to send the original or a copy to Washington. I have a couple suggestions to help you tell whether you are looking at the original or copy.
- If the handwriting is the same when you cross boundary lines (i.e., cities, towns, counties), then you are most likely reading the copy.
- If the handwriting is different when you cross boundary lines (i.e., cities, towns, counties), then you are most likely reading the original.
- Why does it matter? It’s been my experience that when someone makes a copy of another document, this is when transcription mistakes can take place. Be grateful if you are reading the original.
- Labor question. The 1840 census asked an occupation of each person. Separate were prepared for each occupation of which very view have survived.
Too often I have seen genealogists overlooking the value of the 1840 census because they believe the limited information cannot be effectively used. I have found just the opposite to be true. I would like to share with you a few of the ways I have used the information to extend and broaden my research and lessons learned along the way.
Build a family profile. I make it practice to start with the information I already know or suspect about the family. I refer to this as my family profile. The more you know, the more options you have of correctly identifying and connecting the family one generation to the next. The information I like to include in my profile include:
- Names of known and/or suspect family members
- Relationships of known and/or suspect family members
- Father (i.e., fathers, step-fathers)
- Mother (i.e., mothers, step-mothers)
- Children (i.e., brothers, sisters, step-children, adoptions)
- Brothers’/sisters’ –in-law and their spouses (i.e. persons married to grown children of the family)
- Grandparents (i.e. fathers’ side, mothers’ side, step-parents side)
- Siblings of parents and their families (i.e., fathers’ side, mothers’ side, step-parents side and the members of their households)
- Neighbors (i.e. names, surnames and family members)
- Group (i.e., this could members of organization, church, etc.)
- Boarders (i.e., persons living in the household but not family members)
- Servants/slaves (i.e., persons who are identified as servants/slaves)
- List of surname and variations (example: Ewell, Uhl, Youile, Yull, Yule, Zuile)
- Locations of where known and/or suspect family members (i.e., towns, regions, states)
- Locations of known and variations of the family surname (i.e., towns, regions, states)
- List of documents I already have organized in a timeline format
I realize this might be hard for the 1840 census, but it is possible to include names that you have found on documents such as wills, court documents, church records and so forth. Having an idea of counts can give you ideas for sorting out the number tallies that are given in the free male, free female, free others, and slave columns.
Having a portion of the above listed data will give you key data that you can use when searching online databases, microfilm and other resources.
- See the article: Four-step research strategy for pre-1850 U.S. Federal census
Build a case for your family tree. The most important counsel I can give when using the 1790-1840 censuses is not to make any assumptions based on the data you find such as how big the family is by age and sex. Use the information you find to build a case and then use other records to confirm and/or disprove what think is being presented about the family. Never ever run with you assumptions until they can be proved. I spent several years searching out someone else’s family unit that was not confirmed from the census data on 1790-1840’s. Of course it was my fault that I didn’t confirm the data before I started extending the research. Remember the data is based on all persons located in the home. For example,
- Don’t assume that the head of household is the oldest male, although it usually is.
- Don’t assume, the oldest female is the wife of the head of household. It could be a friend, neighbor, widowed sister or grandmother. It could be even be a male who lost his wife and the females are his children.
- Don’t assume that head of household is the first and only spouse. Are there different age groups for children? This could mean the man married a younger wife and had children, married another woman and merged two family units together, or even could be the male is taken care of deceased relative’s family.
- Don’t assume that all the children in the home belong to the head of household. The children could be his siblings who are now living with him after the death of his parents or children of a brother or sister. The children could be those of friend who is away and just happen to be in their home during the time the census was taken.
Head of household. The head of household is the only name given. All persons of the household (including head of household) are listed under the age and group categories as total numbers for each category.
- Search other records. Use the name of head of household to search other records in the given location such as wills/probate records, court records, church records, land records, tax records. See the article:
- Oldest person may not be head of household. The oldest person listed in the age groups may not have been the head of household. The individual could have been a parent or grandparent.
- Identifying the right family group. You can use the head of household and the age groupings numbers to identify the right records of a family group and sort out records that might belong to head of household with the same name. Caution; don’t discount a record that does not match up exactly to the head of household and category numbers. The listings included all persons in the home such as family, friends, neighbors, boarders, and visitors.
- Information about women. Finding information about the woman will be hard if the man is still alive.
- Junior and senior. During the 1800’s “Junior” (abbreviated as Junr. Jun, Jr) and “Senior” (abbreviated as Senr. Sen., Sr.) were used as nicknames when two men in the community had the same name. Yes, John Jones Jr. could have been the son of John Jones Sr. or a John Jones, but I have learned it takes a little more confirmation with additional records before I make the link. Consider this, the older John Jones could have been a sibling, half-brother, cousin, uncle or not even related. See the article:
- Head of household with same name. When you have heads of household with the same name, it can be confusing to know which one is your family. In order to help sort out which one is your ancestor, you will need to have an idea when your ancestor was born and then compare ages through the various censuses.• Phonetically spelled. Most census takers wrote the names of your ancestors (i.e., first and last) phonetically, meaning as they sounded. As you search for your ancestor among the different census and records that were created during their lifetime, be prepared to see their name written differently in each record. Make sure to record the variations in your profile. For example, my ancestor Maxcey Ewell could easily be written as Maxey Yule, Maxcy Yuille, Maxee Uhl. Also consider situation where your ancestor or the census taker were foreign. A German whose name was Braun could have had it spelled Brown, Broune, Browne, or Brawn.
- Other category. Number of “other” free persons is a category which refers to nonwhite racial/ethnic groups. Heads of households are named in this category.
Finding names of women. There are few sources where you can search for women during this time period. The following are a few lessons I have learned:
- Head of household. Search the 1800-1840 censuses to see if she is named as head of household.
- Military pensions. Search for military pension records from the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and future Wars such as War of 1812 (1812-1815), Mexican-American War (1846-1848), U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). Remember that males under the age of 40 have a very good chance of being in the military now and in the future. Widows of soldiers have been eligible to receive the pensions of their husbands from the Revolutionary War forward. Women could not join the military until 1890 as nurse so you will not find wills based on their service until after this date.
- Search for wills. Searching for wills by a woman can be hit and miss. If a woman died after her husband and remarried, changes are there is no will because all she owned when to her new husband. However, If she was single when she died, there might be a will.
- Church records. Search to see if church records exist for the community in this time period. Usually if you find them, start by looking for the person listed as head of household in categories of marriage, christening of children, baptism of children, death of family members, etc. You may be able to find the maiden name of the wife, if the witnesses are named in the marriage. If you find a first name for the wife, search all the first names in the church records to give you suspect families where she may have been a child.
- Related heads of household. If you are able to find the names of children associated with the male head of household, look for other heads of household in the area with the same first name. Remember that children were usually given the name of parents. Also look at the middle names of male children. The mother’s maiden name was often preserved in the middle name.
- Bible records. If you are really lucky, you may be able to find bible records. For example, the Library of Virginia has a large collection of bible from the 17-1800’s. I was able to locate a family bible that had been preserved this way.
Woman as head of household. Finding a woman as a head of household 1790 to 1840 U.S. census usually means that she is a widow or the eldest daughter deceased parents. She may also be the head of household when the male is elderly or infirm (not physically or mentally strong.)
- Surname. Use the surname of the woman to search for wills where she is named.
- Remarriage. It was common when a woman remarried after the death of her husband, during this time period that all she owned when to her new husband. This includes the land.
- Pension records. Look for pension records from the Revolutionary war. Widows of soldiers have been eligible to receive the pensions of their husbands from the Revolutionary War forward. Women could not join the military until 1890 as nurse so you will not find wills based on their service until after this date.
Age and family composition. In the 1840 US Population Census, learn the approximate corresponding birth years associated with the age groupings provided.
- Census start and stop. The first family would have been recorded in Jun 1, 1840 and the last family on December 31, 1841.
- Dramatic revision of age groups. The 1840 census made a dramatic revision in the age categories from the 1830 census by making smaller age brackets for white male and females. White males and females were broken down by years according to the following table: under 5 years of age, 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, and 100 years and upward. The smaller age groupings make it much easier for you to develop a profile of the family.
- Age groups. Because we are given more age groups for Free White Males and Free White Females, it makes it a little easier for us to identify the exact person when we are presented names through other documents or later censuses. We are also able to make a little more sense of 1830-1790 censuses with the numbers that are presented in the limited age categories.
- Persons being counted. Numbers shown in the categories include all persons who were in the home at the time the census taker came to the home. Persons enumerated could include family, relatives, friends, employees, visitors, and boarders.
- Using probate records. When you combine the age category with other records such as probate inventories and tax lists, you may be able to determine the names of the family and their birth order.
- Those not counted. No matter when the census taker came, he was to record who was in the house as of June 1, 1840. If a child was born after this date they were not to be counted. If a person died before this date, they were not to be counted. It is very probable the census taker just recorded who was there the day he arrived.
- Age ranges are ballpark numbers. The age range provided in the categories only gives us a “ballpark” number. The ball park figure is helpful in tracking the head of household from one census to the next especially if the name remains the same. We can also use the figure to help build an estimation of the family composition that needs to be confirmed with other records (e.g., church, wills/probate, land).
- Oldest person. The oldest person listed in the age groups may not have been the head of household. The individual could have been a parent or grandparent.
- Developing family scenarios. You can use the age category to develop family scenarios about individuals who have died. For example, as you move forward in the census, you may find the age of a spouse to be much older or younger such as in the case where a wife is too young for some of the children being listed. You may find young children listed in one census and gone in the next census which could mean that the child is dead or living somewhere else during the census. A death of male can give clues to search for a will/probate record. If a female in an age bracket is missing, she could have died or married.
- Subtracting and adding 10 years. When you moving backwards from one census to the next such as the1840 to the 1830 census, you can subtract 10 years and when you find the family you will be able to use the age groupings to give you the estimation of family composition and help distinguish between families of the same name. The same is true when moving forward in the census from 1840 to 1850. If the families don’t matchup exactly, its ok. Remember that the census recorded all where in the home and did not denote who were family, friends, boarders, and so forth.
- Age gaps. When you find age gaps in children it could hint for a number of issues such as the child could have died (Note: Search to see if death, church or cemetery records exist), there could be a second marriage or merged family families (Note: search for marriage records where the family lived at the time.)
- Suspect families. As you move forward and backward in the 1790-1840 censuses create a chart for the known and/or suspect families. Include the head of household, ages ranges by male and female with their estimated birth years.
- Age ranges. When you find the same or similar age ranges by male and female for all or partial members of the family, you have a much better chance of being focused on the right group.
Slaves and Free African Americans. The slave category should not be overlooked.
- Free Men of Color. “Free Men of Color” were listed if they were the head of household. There were a total of 377,757 freedmen.
- Free Men age groups. Freedmen were broken down in age according to the following table: under 10 years of age, 10 to 24, 24 to 36, 36 to 55, 55 to 100, and 100 years and upward.
- Numbers. The number of slaves in the 1840 census is 2,487,355.
- Slave owner. Slaves appear in the age groupings by name of the owner.
- Ages of slaves. Because there are ages given for the slaves, you should be in a better position, with verification from other records, to determine the birth order of families, especially where names and sex of members of the slave family are known.
- Signs of wealth. Find clues about your ancestor’s financial standing in the community. If the family had slaves, it could be a sign that they had more wealth then others in the community. The more slaves a family owned, the wealthier they were.
- Clues. The slave category can also provide clues that other records exist such as estate, property records and tax records. These records many include the name and age of the slaves
- See the video series: 25+ Introduction to African-American Genealogy Tutorials
Native Americans. Most Native Americans in the U.S. were not counted because they lived on reservations and thus “Not taxed.” Information on Native Americans exist only if they lived in a area being taxed. If this is the case, they will be counted as any other citizen paying taxes.
Foreigners. There is a question that asks about how many are not naturalized (means not being U.S. citizens). Foreigners not naturalized can assist you in identifying the approximate length of time a family may have been in the U.S. Knowing this information will provide clues that will help you search for documents such as naturalization papers (e.g. nearby court), emigration information, ship passenger lists.
Deaf, dumb and blind. This is the second census where questions were asked questions relating to family members who were deaf, dumb and blind. The 1840 census expanded this question to include any person insane or idiot and whether the person was cared for by a public institution or at home. If you find that these categories were marked for your ancestors, there may be related guardianship or institutional records.
Education. During the 1830’s the government had set aside free land for the building of schools. In the 1840 census the government was interested in how many communities had actually built schools and how many children/persons in each household were attending school and the level of education they were receiving.
Neighbors. Usually census takers recorded the households in the order they were visited. Others took their notes and created a form with listing the individuals in as close to alphabetical order.
- Order of visit. If your census is recorded in the order of households visited, then you can begin to build the circle of influence for your ancestors. Most of the 1840 census records are arranged in the order of the census taker visitation.
- Alphabetical order. If your census in in alphabetical order, it will make it more difficult to establish relationships. Searching census substitutes can be critical in helping to build a case for family, friends and neighbors of your ancestors. For example, when I was researching my ancestor Maxcey Ewell, I was able to find several records like road work crews, church records, tax records that gave clues to the groups in which he associated which later proved critical in locating family and other research clues.
- Moving with neighbors. Often neighbors move with neighbors. Are they the same family? Members of the same congregation? Friends? If you can’t follow family or find the family in the census, see if you can follow neighbors. Are the given names similar among the neighbors and your family? Similar names run in families. This might be a clue that they are more than just neighbors. It has been my experience that neighbors, even when they don’t share the same name are related. Look for the neighbors being the wife’s parents, sister of the husband, siblings of the wife, aunts and uncles and so forth. When I couldn’t find my ancestors in location, I have searched on the names of know neighbors to find my family. Make sure you include the names of neighbors in your family profile.
Surnames. In my research, I have often found that there are family connections among those with the same surname.
- Finding relations. Could they be a relative? Does the individual show up as a child in earlier census? Search other records such as deeds, wills to see if the person shows up. Could individuals be in-laws? Check marriages of the county for husbands of sisters, aunts, mothers.
- Extracting surnames. Make it a practice to extract all the persons with the same surname living in the same county. Are they family? They could be family connection or related connection such as where they came from. If your family lives near a state our county border, go ahead and extract the persons with the same surnames from neighboring counties. I have usually found important clues and connections among those with the same surname that has enhanced my research.
- Using the Soundex to identify spelling variations of your last name. I like to go to the Soundex converter on RootsWeb and use it to gather my alternate surnames. For example for my last name of Ewell/Yule, Soundex converter on Rootsweb me Ewell, Eley, Ell, Ely, and Yule, Yowell, Yale, Yuill.
Misspelled names are ok. Never assume that the surname you are researching has stayed the same through the generations or even through a life time. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that spelling conventions became common. Spelling was a phonetic practice meaning you wrote down the name as you heard it. Ewell becomes Youile, Uhl, Zoule, Eule. Census enumerators, priests, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, tax collectors, and any other persons with need to write down your family name probably had some input on how it was written. Be prepared to find the name spelled differently for every record you find. When record the spelling in your genealogy database, leave the spelling as you found it. And of course make sure to add any new spelling to your family/name reference list so you will be aware spelling variation.
I have learned that for every record I find, I should not be surprised if my name is spelled differently. For example one research found the following:
- Reardin was found in a land record
- Rairdon was found in a census
- Rarden was found in a church record
- Rardin was found in a court record
- Reardin was found in a military record
Searching online databases. When you realize that the spelling of your ancestors name can vary from census to census, there are times when your name search does not produced desired results. The following are few ideas to consider.
- Try using a wildcard search. Most census databases will allow you to use these search techniques.
- Wildcard ? question mark. This is where you use the ? mark to replace a letter. For example, if you your name was Smith, you might also find it spelled Smyth. Conduct your search using the Sm?th. This will return names like Smith, Smyth, Smath, Smoth. The spelling of the name stays the same except for the letter represented by the ?. Please note you cannot put the ? in front of a word.
- Wildcard *asterix. You can use the * represent an unknown number of letters. I often will use the search for Scandinavian names. For example, if I did a search on John*, I would get returns of Johnson, Johnsen, Johns, Johnathon. Note you must have at least 3 letters before the *.
- Soundex search. Try the using the Soundex option if it’s available which helps to identify alternative spellings. The soundex is a coded surname (last name) index based on the way a surname sounds rather than the way it is spelled. Surnames that sound the same, but are spelled differently, like SMITH and SMYTH , have the same code and are filed together. I like to go to the Soundex converter on RootsWeb and use it to gather my alternate surnames. For example for my last name of Ewell/Yule, Soundex converter on Rootsweb me Ewell, Eley, Ell, Ely, and Yule, Yowell, Yale, Yuill.
- For other search queries see the follow article:
- Free PDF Download: 100+ Internet Search Queries for Genealogists
First and middle names. You never know what first name your ancestor will be known by. Think of yourself, friends, and relatives. Some go by birth name, nickname, middle name and/or their initial. Be on the lookout for these variations with each census.
- Middle names. It was common our ancestors to name their children after parents, grandparents and give them a middle name by which they would be known. For example, James Albert Johnson would be known by Albert or Bert Johnson.
- Initials. I have found names changing from census to census with the use of the initial. For example, James Isaac Steward in the 1800 census became, J. Steward in 1810, James. I. Steward in 1840 and James Stewart in 1850.
- Nicknames. I have found many occasions where nicknames are used instead of the birth name. I have made it practice to always include possible nicknames in my family profile just in case I need search variations of the name. See the articles:
Location. When you consider the limited information on 1840 U.S. census, the locality (i.e. town, county, state) where the census was taken become critical when we look to expand our research to the other records created by our ancestors at the time they lived.
- Counties. The 1810 census was broken down by counties.
- Using maps. When you search location, try to find a map that shows the county/state boundaries at the time your ancestor lived there so you can make sure you research all possible record repositories. For example, my ancestor Permitt Lee lived in Stanton County, Virginia in the late 1700’s part of which later becomes West Virginia. When I expanded my research to West Virginia, I was able find new records never before known to the family.
- Location search. If you can’t find your ancestor by name, try searching on the location with information you know about the person. For example you know the wife was 45 living in Calvert County, Maryland in the 1820 census. Search the database for Female, age 35 (or age range 32-37) in Calvert county, Maryland. If you are in the 1850-1940 census records, try using first name, marriage status, and/or age combinations with the location. Search variations might include:
- First name, sex (i.e. female), age, and location
- First name, age range and location
- First name, age, marriage status (e.g., married) and location
- Sex (i.e., female), age and location
- Age and location
- First name and location
Other records created by ancestors. One of the most important questions, I have asked in my research is what records were created by individuals living in the area/location at the time my ancestors lived here? The answer to the question provides me a list of resources that I will systematically search to confirm, disregards, and expand the data I find in the census. A good place to begin to find the records is to reach out to the historical/genealogical society for the state and county and ask for their guidance on records available. Make sure you ask if the records have been digitized and where they can be found online or other means of accessibility in not digital.
- For example, one of the more common census substitutes for the 1840 census is tax lists. I have commonly found the tax lists to include all males over the age of 21 with information like whether they owned land, slaves, and other property. If I were looking for tax lists from Virginia online, I would construct a Google search query on Genealogy Virginia Tax Lists; Goochland County Virginia Tax Lists; and/or Goochland County Historical Society.
What to search after 1840 U.S. census. After the 1840 U.S. Census I have found it valuable to search 1790-1830 censuses followed by the colonial records which include church records, voting lists, property tax lists and so forth.
- See the article: Searching ancestors in census substitutes
Search the original record. Much of the research we are able to do on census records are done online. The information we see are what is referred to as transcripts, meaning that someone has looked at the original record has interpreted what has been written and provided it to you in an abbreviated format. Looking at the original record is a must. Take time to find the original digital image or photocopy microfilm of full page. Look for census taker notes. See if there are any errors in transcription. I have found an average of 10% errors in the transcripts from the original records. Look for other information is not in the transcription.
- If you are having a hard time reading the census takers handwriting, take the time learn how he formed his letters such as a, f, h, j, p, and s. This is where I have found the most transcription errors. I will look for names/words that I know containing these letters and then compare how the census taker wrote the names of my ancestors.
Research the state census. Because a portion of the 1840 federal census was destroyed, it can become valuable to research state census record.
- Off years. State censuses were conducted by states in off years in between the Federal census such as in 1845, 1855, 1865. It really varies by state.
- Federal and state census information similar. These censuses usually contain the same type of information as in the Federal as well as additional questions that are unique to that state.
- Where located. These censuses and are located at the state archive and/or libraries (note: many are online), through microfilm at LDS Family History Centers, online transcripts of counties within a state from historical societies, and online databases such as Ancestry.com.
- Snapshot. The state census is a snapshot of the family and is value to use construct, confirm, add, and/or delete information from the family profile you are building. For example, I have found children that were born and died in between the federal census. Confirmed deaths of wife’s, husbands and grandparents.
- See the article: Availability of pre-1850 U.S. Federal and state census records
Using the 1840 U.S. census. The 1840 U.S. census only provides the name of the head of household and counts of persons who were in the home at the time the census was taken. I’ve effectively used the census to
- Follow the family beyond/before1850 census
- Identify head of household
- Estimate family structure such as the number of persons by age and sex
- Differentiate between families of the same name
- Locate and identify possible children not listed in later censuses
- Locate and identify possible neighbors who might be family
- Locate and identify possible parents
- Identify labor and occupation
- Locate and identify children not yet known
- Locate and identify family who are neighbors
- Identify slave holders
- Identify slaves in age group by owner
- Identify free men of color listed as head of household
- Identify spelling variations
- Follow the family before the 1840 census into Colonial records
- Use the naturalization column to determine length of residency in US to then help find naturalization papers
- Locate and identify family in other census substitute records (e.g., probate inventories, tax lists)
- Use the “deaf and dumb” and blind columns to check for institutional and / or guardianship records
- Identify Revolutionary War pensioners
Remember that the 1840 U.S. census by itself is limited but when combined with other censuses and records, you now have a body of information and knowledge that have the ability to give a good overview of the family.
Search for military records from the Revolutionary War and/or War of 1812 for the head of household. Even though there is no information in the 1840 census that identifies the man as being in the war, it is still worth your time to look. Search for pension applications and records of pension payments for veterans, their widows, and other heirs. The pension applications usually provide the most information and can include supporting documents such as marriage, birth, and dead records/certificates, pages from family Bibles, family letters, dispositions of witnesses, affidavits, discharge papers and other supporting documents. Even if you ancestor did not receive a pension, look to see if his pension request was denied.
Bounty land applications also are related wartime service. The federal government provided bounty land for those who served in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the War of 1812 (1812-1815), the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), and Indian wars between 1775 and 1855. Bounty lands were offered as incentive to serve and as a reward for service. Bounty land was claimed by veterans or their heirs. The fed¬eral government reserved tracts of land for this purpose. The states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia also set aside tracts of bounty land for their Revolutionary War veterans.
Search for these military records:
- Revolutionary War 1776-1783. Look for military records of men serving in the Revolutionary War who are between the ages of 70 and 80+ in the 1840 census. These men would have been born prior to 1770. See the article:
- War of 1812 (1812-1814). Look for military records of men serving in the War of 1812 who are between the ages of 41 and 80+ in the 1840 census. These men would have been born prior to 1799. See the article:
- Early Indian Wars 1815-1858. Look for military records of men serving in the Early Indian Wars who are between the ages of 10 and 80 in the 1840 census. These men would have been born prior to 1835. See the article:
- Mexican War 1846-1848. Look for military records of men serving in the Mexican Wars who are between the ages of 7-55 in the 1840 census. These men would have been born prior to 1832. See the article:
- Civil War 1861-1865. Look for military records of men who would be serving in the U.S. Civil War who are between the ages of 0 and 40 in the 1840 census. These men would have been born prior in 1850 and earlier. Keep in mind that many young men lied about their age and served with their father, brother (s), or other family members. If your ancestor lived in the Union or Confederate states that they served in their army. Many men who were in the Union served in the Confederacy. And there are many men from the South that served in the Union Army. Make sure that you search for all male members of the family (i.e., father, sons, brothers, uncles, and nephews.) The Civil War enlistment card will give you clues of your ancestors’ location and place of residence. See the articles:
- Researching military headstones. Military headstones have evolved through time. See the following articles for details:
A census is a government-sponsored enumeration of the population in a particular area and contains a variety of information — names, heads of household (or all household members), ages, citizenship status, ethnic background, and so on. Here are some different types of census records you are likely to come across in your research.
U.S. federal census is also called a population schedule. Federal census records provide the building blocks of your research, allowing you to both confirm information and to learn more. Compiled in the United States for every decade since 1790, census population schedules are comprehensive, detailed records of the federal government’s decennial survey of American households. Information from the schedules is used by the federal government for demographic analysis.
The schedules themselves, of interest primarily to genealogists, contain the personal information of the survey respondents. To protect the privacy of the people whose names appear in each schedule, census records are restricted for 72 years after the census is taken and are not available to researchers during that time.
HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD DATA
Col. 1: Name of Town, City, County or Village
Col. 2: Names of the Heads of Families
Col. 3: (Line name is recorded on)
HOUSEHOLD DATA—FREE WHITE MALES
Col. 4: (Number of) Under 5 years (0-4)
Col. 5: (Number of) 5 & under 10 (5-9)
Col. 6: (Number of) 10 & under 15 (10-14)
Col. 7: (Number of) 15 & under 20 (15-19)
Col. 8: (Number of) 20 & under 30 (20-29)
Col. 9: (Number of) 30 & under 40 (30-39)
Col. 10: (Number of) 40 & under 50 (40-49)
Col. 11: (Number of) 50 & under 60 (50-59)
Col. 12: (Number of) 60 & under 70 (60-69)
Col. 13: (Number of) 70 & under 80 (70-79)
Col. 14: (Number of) 80 & under 90 (80-89)
Col. 15: (Number of) 90 & under 100 (90-99)
Col. 16: (Number of) 100 & upwards (100+)
HOUSEHOLD DATA—FREE WHITE FEMALES
Col. 17: (Number of) Under 5 years (0-4)
Col. 18: (Number of) 5 & under 10 (5-9)
Col. 19: (Number of) 10 & under 15 (10-14)
Col. 20: (Number of) 15 & under 20 (15-19)
Col. 21: (Number of) 20 & under 30 (20-29)
Col. 22: (Number of) 30 & under 40 (30-39)
Col. 23: (Number of) 40 & under 50 (40-49)
Col. 24: (Number of) 50 & under 60 (50-59)
Col. 25: (Number of) 60 & under 70 (60-69)
Col. 26: (Number of) 70 & under 80 (70-79)
Col. 27: (Number of) 80 & under 90 (80-89)
Col. 28: (Number of) 90 & under 100 (90-99)
Col. 29: (Number of) 100 & upwards (100+)
HOUSEHOLD DATA—FREE COLORED PERSONS MALES
Col. 30: (Number of) Under 10 years (0-9)
Col. 31: (Number of) 5 & under 10 (5-9)
Col. 32: (Number of) 10 & under 24 (10-23)
Col. 33: (Number of) 24 & under 36 (24-34)
Col. 34: (Number of) 36 & under 55 (35-54)
Col. 35: (Number of) 55 & under 100 (55-99)
Col. 36: (Number of) 100 & upwards (100+)
HOUSEHOLD DATA—FREE COLORED PERSONS FEMALE
Col. 37: (Number of) Under 10 years (0-9)
Col. 38: (Number of) 5 & under 10 (5-9)
Col. 39: (Number of) 10 & under 24 (10-23)
Col. 40: (Number of) 24 & under 36 (24-34)
Col. 41: (Number of) 36 & under 55 (35-54)
Col. 42: (Number of) 55 & under 100 (55-99)
Col. 43: (Number of) 100 & upwards (100+)
HOUSEHOLD DATA—SLAVES MALE
Col. 44: (Number of) Under 10 years (0-9)
Col. 45: (Number of) 5 & under 10 (5-9)
Col. 46: (Number of) 10 & under 24 (10-23)
Col. 47: (Number of) 24 & under 36 (24-34)
Col. 48: (Number of) 36 & under 55 (35-54)
Col. 49: (Number of) 55 & under 100 (55-99)
Col. 50: (Number of) 100 & upwards (100+)
HOUSEHOLD DATA—SLAVES FEMALE
Col. 51: (Number of) Under 10 years (0-9)
Col. 52: (Number of) 5 & under 10 (5-9)
Col. 53: (Number of) 10 & under 24 (10-23)
Col. 54: (Number of) 24 & under 36 (24-34)
Col. 55: (Number of) 36 & under 55 (35-54)
Col. 56: (Number of) 55 & under 100 (55-99)
Col. 57: (Number of) 100 & upwards (100+)
NUMBER OF PERSONS IN EACH FAMILY EMPLOYED
Col. 58: Mining
Col. 59: Agriculture
Col. 60: Commerce
Col. 61: Manufactures and trades
Col. 62: Navigation of the ocean
Col. 63: Navigation of canals, lakes and rivers
Col. 64: Learned professions & engineers
PENSIONERS FOR REVOLUTIONARY OR MILITARY SERVICES
Col. 65: Name
Col. 66: Age
WHITE PERSON INCLUDED IN THE FOREGOING
Col. 67: Deaf & Dumb under 14 (0-13)
Col. 68: Deaf & Dumb 14 & under 25 (14-24)
Col. 69: Deaf & Dumb 25 & upwards (25+)
Col. 70: Who are blind
Col. 71: INSANE & IDIOTS-At public charge
Col. 72: NSANE & IDIOTS-At private charge
COLORED PERSONS INCLUDED IN THE FOREGOING
Col. 73: Deaf & Dumb under 14 (0-13)
Col. 74: Deaf & Dumb 14 & under 25 (14-24)
Col. 75: Deaf & Dumb 25 & upwards (25+)
Col. 76: Who are blind
Col. 77: INSANE & IDIOTS-At public charge
Col. 78: NSANE & IDIOTS-At private charge
SCHOOLS, & C
Col. 79: (Enumerator was to enter whether University, College, Academy, Grammar School or Primary & Common School as the case may be)
Col. 80: No. of Scholars
Col. 81: No. of white persons over 20 who cannot read or write