United States Census, Mortality Schedules, 1850 (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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Collection Time History
Mortality schedules exist for the census year 1850, 1860 and 1880.
Census enumerators requested information from the head of household about deaths that had occurred in the year prior to the census. In 1918 to 1919, the Bureau of the Census distributed the original schedules to states or to the National Library of the Daughters of the American Revolution when states were not interested. Mortality schedules list those deceased during the year prior to the census. This is a small percentage of the total population. At the time of the 1870 census, it was surmised that as many as one-third of all deaths were not reported. For instance, when a family was scattered by the death of the head of household, there was no one left to report it. In 1880 a supplemental report from attending physicians added 60,000 additional names to the schedules.
Why This Record Was Created
In the absence of vital registration in many states, mortality schedules provided nationwide death statistics for one year of each decade, 1850–1880. According to the official statistical report for 1870, this was done to assess the death rate for age-groups, sex, race, nationality, and occupation and to “deduc[e] the effect of the various conditions of life upon the duration of life.”
Census mortality schedules are usually accurate, but this accuracy depended on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator.
The schedules consist of large preprinted forms filled in by the census enumerators.
Mortality schedules include the following genealogical information:
- Name, sex, age, and color of the deceased
- Whether married or widowed
- Birthplace (state, territory, or country)
- Month of death
- Occupation (profession or trade)
- Cause of death
- If parents were foreign born (1870 only)
- Length of residence in the United States (1880 only)
- Father’s and mother’s birthplace (1880 only)
How To Use The Record
Mortality schedules are a national level file of state-by-state death registers. Using the death information, you can search for obituaries, mortuary records, cemeteries, and probate records, all of which may provide additional genealogical information. Mortality schedules also list ages and birthplaces for a time period when births were not reported. Use this information to look for other records that may provide information about the individual, parents, and siblings.
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Sources of This Collection
"U.S. Census Mortality Schedule, 1850," database, FamilySearch; (http://familysearch.org), from United States Census Office. Digital images of originals housed at the National Archives, Washington, D.C.. FHL microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
How to Cite Your Sources
An example of citing these records is: U.S. Census Mortality Schedule, 1850. Census page. From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org), April 26, 2010. John Davis, 35, Clinton County, Iowa, d. Aug. 1849, film number 1421006.
Instructions for citing this source can be found at: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections