Researchers may only be thinking in terms of US Federal Censuses showing populations, our ancestors in a location, a household, their age, place of birth, occupations etc., every ten years. Well, the Federal Government has collected information on other topics. At the National Archives site is the full listing of other sources.
For example, there was the collection of information on certain years for manufacturing and for agriculture. With agriculture (farms) information gathered for the years 1850, 1860, and 1870 provide the following information for each farm: name of owner or manager, number of improved and unimproved acres, and the cash value of the farm, farming machinery, livestock, animals slaughtered during the past year, and “homemade manufactures.” Included were the number of each type of farm animal and the acreage producing certain crops. With manufacturing information gathered in the years 1820, 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 reported the name of the manufacturer; the type of business or product; the amount of capital invested; the quantities, kinds, and value of raw materials used; the quantities, kinds, and value of product produced annually; the kind of power or machinery used; the number of men and women employed; and the average monthly cost of male and female labor. So if you had ancestors in either of their occupations, there could be another source to tap.
Another type of census was Mortality Schedules which recorded deaths in the year preceding the taking of the census in 1860, 1870 and 1880. For example, the 1860 mortality schedules include persons who died between June 1, 1859 and May 31, 1860. For each person, the following information is listed: name, age, sex, marital status if married or widowed, state or country of birth, month of death, occupation, cause of death, and the length of the final illness.
A fascinating hometown type of census was called Social Schedules done between1850 through 1870, these schedules indicate for each political subdivision the value of real estate; annual taxes; number of schools, teachers, and pupils; number and type of libraries and the number of volumes they have; name, type, and circulation of newspapers; the types of church denominations, the number of people each church can seat, and the value of their property; the number of native and foreign-born paupers and the cost of supporting them; the number of native and foreign-born criminals convicted and in prison; and the average wages paid to farm hands, day laborers, carpenters, and female domestics. Note that these schedules provide only statistical data, not information about specific individuals. However in the 1880 schedules did have listed the delinquent, defective, and dependent classes providing information about deaf, dumb, blind, and criminal persons who are listed by their exact full name.
The National Archives have their special schedules / censuses on microfilm and available at the Washington, D. C. headquarters, plus some at the regional National Archives centers across the country. However, they have also been made digital and available online using FamilySearch.org (free site)- plus at any local Family History Center – Agricultural Search – FamilySearch-Search; also Fold3.com and Ancestry.com (both fee subscriptions). Ancestry.com is available in many local public libraries and / or genealogical societies.
Photos: Agricultural counts; Religions in 1870 in Hancock, Illinois; Counting ancestors.
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