United States Occupations Listed in Census Schedules 1790 to 1840 (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Occupational Records  by Beverly Rice, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Census Schedules 1790-1840

Many researchers do not think of the 1790-1840 population records as “full of useful information”. First and foremost these records place a family and individuals in a specific place at a certain time. This particular information can lead you to the records of that area and time and then to the different documents that state directly or indirectly the individual’s occupation; records such as probate, land, directories, town records and much more. Not something to overlook or consider trivial, the census enumeration of an individual is a primary starting point in many research projects. And with the added information available from the non-population schedules is a real asset.

1790 and 1800

  • Non-population schedules were not taken during the first two census years.
  • A specific question related to occupation was not asked.

The one column that could be relevant to an individual’s occupation is the “Slave” column. A large number of slaves would denote a person with a need for labor in his/her occupation, not a worker or an apprentice themselves. This will also apply to all census schedules through 1840.

Household or farm accounts, a record of the sale of property (slaves) or probate records are just a few of the resources that would have information related to the occupation of the slave owner or possibly the skills of the slave themselves. This is an example of resources that were derived from these early census records.


The 1810 is similar to the 1790-1800 populations schedule in that there was not a question asked related to a person’s occupation. However, there was a Manufacturers Schedule taken which could define a person’s occupation.

This is the first year that a non-population schedule was ordered. Much of this schedule has been lost. Those fragments that have survived are filmed with the population schedules for 1810.

There are charts available in both Hinckley and Kemp’s book from the above list that will assist the researcher in determining what is available. If a schedule is available it will be located at the end of the population schedule of that area. It is not name specific, however it can give you a general idea of the make up of a community.

Manufacturers Schedule of 1810 includes the following for each manufacturing establishment:

  • name of the owner
  • kind of establishment
  • quantity and estimated value of the goods manufactured
  • quantity of raw material used

1810 U.S. census, Thomas Pond and Shaker Settlement, Cumberland County, District of Maine, Massachusetts, page 397; National Archives micropublication M252m, roll 11.

1810 census9Z.jpg


This enumeration included 3 new categories related to occupation.

  • Numbers of Persons, including slaves, engaged in Agriculture.
  • Numbers of Persons, including slaves, engaged in Commerce.
  • Numbers of Persons, including slaves, engaged in Manufacture.

Although they do not state directly an individual’s occupation there are general categories to direct the researcher to other records. Or if the individual you are researching has a mark in the manufacture column and your research has always indicated that he is a farmer then you must consider:

  • you do not have the correct individual
  • the individual has changed occupation
  • the enumerator made an incorrect mark

The researcher will need to evaluate supporting documentation that will support their conclusion even with this conflicting information.

1820 also produced a Manufacturer Schedule that asked questions that included:

  • nature and names of articles manufactured
  • market value of articles annually manufactured
  • kind, quantity and cost of raw materials annually consumed
  • number of men, women, boys and girls employed
  • quantity and kind of machinery
  • amount of capital invested
  • amount paid annually in wages
  • amount of contingent expenses
  • general observations

The surviving schedules are microfilmed as Records of the 1820 Census of Manufactures, National Archives M279, 27 rolls and is available through the Family History Library on FHL films 1024492-4518


This census year did not ask any question related to occupation. Non-population schedules were not produced. Again, remember a large number of slaves would denote a person with a need for labor in his/her occupation, not a worker or an apprentice themselves.


This census year was the first to ask more detailed questions related to the occupation of each family member. Although the occupation column is only a tally mark, with no name attached, the notations will still aid the researcher in determining the occupation of the family members. The occupation columns can also assist the researcher to distinguish persons of similar names in the same region.

Questions asked on the 1840 population schedule related to occupations:

  • Numbers of persons in each family employed in:
  • Mining
  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Manufactures and trades
  • Navigation of the Oceans
  • Navigation of Canal, Lakes, and rivers
  • Learned professions and engineers

Other questions that can be useful in determining occupations are the columns related to education.

  • University or college
  • Number of students
  • Academic and Grammar schools
  • Number of scholars
  • Primary and Common Schools
  • Number of scholars
  • Number of scholars at public charge

Again, the exact individual that relates to each tally mark is not stated. It is an indicator to other records.

One disadvantage is that there was not a column for “retired”. Thus if you have an older person the researcher does not know if one of the occupations refers to them or a younger individual. Many individuals did not retire because they did not have any other source of income.

1840 U.S. census, Washington County, Maine, town of Calais, page 38; National Archives micropublication M 704, roll 152.

1840 census9Z.jpg


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: Occupational Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.