United States Census, 1850 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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United States Census, 1850
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This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
United States
United States flag.png
Flag of the United States of America
NARA seal300.jpg
Seal of the National Archives
Record Description
Record Type Population and Slave Schedules
Record Group RG 29: Records of the Bureau of the Census
Collection years 1850
Microfilm Publication M432. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. 1009 rolls.
Arrangement Arrange alphabetically by state, and by county, by city, township.
National Archives Identifier 598246
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
National Archives and Records Administration


What is in This Collection?

Index and images of population schedules listing the free inhabitants of each household as of June 1, 1850. It is the first census to list each free person by name. The collection is part of Record Group 29 Records of the Bureau of the Census and is NARA microfilm publication M432. Searchable data and browse are available for all states and territories.

General Information About Census Records

The U.S. federal census was conducted each decade from 1790-present. This information pertains to censuses conducted in 1850, 1860, and 1870.

Federal census takers were asked to record information about all those who were in each household on the census day, which was 1 June. A census taker might have visited a house on a later date, but the information he collected was supposed to be about the people who were in the house on the census day. The basic census enumeration unit was the county. Each county was divided into enumeration districts, one for each enumerator. The completed forms were sent to the Census Office in the Commerce Department in Washington D.C.

The U.S. federal census was taken at the beginning of every decade to apportion the number of representatives that a state could send to the House of Representatives in Congress. In the absence of a national system of vital registration, many vital statistics and personal questions were asked to provide a statistical profile of the nation and its states.

Population schedules consisted of large sheets with rows and columns. The schedules were arranged by place, such as township or post office. The places were not filed in any particular order. The arrangement of families on a schedule is normally in the order in which the enumerator visited the households.

Federal censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator. Information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or by a neighbor. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.

To Browse This Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for United State Census, 1850.

Related State Census Collections

What Can These Records Tell Me?

Information in the 1850 census may include the following:

  • Town/township, county and state in which census was taken
  • House number and family number
  • Name of each person in household
  • Age of each person in household (can be used to approximate birth year)
  • Sex of each person in household
  • Race of each person in household
  • Occupation of each person
  • Value of any real estate
  • Birthplace of each person in household
  • Whether person was married during the year
  • Whether person attended school during the year
  • Can person read and write
  • Additional remarks

Collection Content

Sample Image

How Do I Search This Collection?

You can search the index or view the images or both. Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of your ancestor
  • The approximate age of your ancestor
  • The state and county where your ancestor lived
  • The names of other relatives or associates who lived nearby

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images

View images in this collection by visiting the Browse Page

  1. Select State
  2. Select County
  3. Select Township or other division of county to view the images

How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I was Looking For, What Now?

  • Copy the citation below, in case you need to find this record again later
  • Use the ages listed to determine approximate birth dates and find the family in additional censuses
  • Use the information found in the record to find church and vital records such as birth, baptism, marriage, and death records
  • Use the information found in the record to find land, probate and immigration records
  • Repeat this process with additional family members found, to find more generations of the family

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you find possible relatives
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby town or county
  • Try different spellings of your ancestor’s name
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names. Try searching for these names as well
  • Check the info box above for additional FamilySearch websites and related websites that may assist you in finding similar records
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby localities
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals with the same family number
  • There is also the possibility that a family was missed in the census
  • Consult the United States Record Finder to find other records


Related Historical Record Collections

Known Issues With This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation

"United States Census, 1850." Database and Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. Citing NARA microfilm publication M432. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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