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 U.S. Federal 1870 Census Records

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The U.S. Federal 1870 Census

1870 Census

The 1870 census was begun on 1 June 1870. The enumeration was to be completed within five months.

Questions Asked in the 1870 Census
The 1870 census form called for dwelling houses to be numbered in the order of visitation; families numbered in order of visitation; and the name of every person whose place of abode on the first day of June 1870 was with the family. The census further asked the age of each individual at the last birthday. If a child was under one year of age, months of age were to be stated in fractions, such as 1/12. Additionally, the census asked the sex, color, profession, and occupation or trade of every male and female. There were also columns for disclosure of value of real estate and personal property. The 1870 census asked for the place of birth, specifically in which state or territory of the United States, or in which country if foreign born (including the province if born in Germany). The schedule provided space to indicate whether or not the father and the mother of the individual was foreign born, and if an individual was born or married within the year, the month in which the event occurred was to be entered. The census also asked for those who had attended school within the year; those who could not read; those who could not write; and the deaf and dumb, blind, insane and the “idiotic” to be identified. Finally, the schedules had space to identify any male citizen of the United States of age twenty-one and older, and any male citizen of the United States age twenty-one and older whose right to vote was denied or abridged on grounds other than rebellion or other crime.

Other Significant Facts about the 1870 Census
The 1870 census may identify survivors of the Civil War, thus suggesting that military records may be found. Conversely, if an individual does not appear in the 1870 census as expected, it may be a clue that the person was a casualty of the war. In the absence of so many other records from the South for this era, information from the 1870 census can be especially important. A caveat, however, is found in Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses 1790–1920, in which it is stated that “The 1870 census in the Southern States omits a great many persons.”

Research Tips for the 1870 Census
The 1870 census is the first census in which parents of foreign birth are indicated—a real boon in identifying immigrant ancestors. Immigrants who were naturalized and eligible to vote are identified, suggesting follow-up in court and naturalization sources. Indications of a person’s color that were intended to be more precise—white (W), black (B), Chinese (C), Indian (I), mulatto (M)—may be helpful in determining individuals’ origins.

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