1840 U.S. Census

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The United States Federal Census

This article is part of a series.
Overview of the U.S. Census
Finding and Reading U.S. Census Records
1790 U.S. Census
1800 U.S. Census
1810 U.S. Census
1820 U.S. Census
1830 U.S. Census
1840 U.S. Census
1850 U.S. Census
1860 U.S. Census
1870 U.S. Census
1880 U.S. Census
1890 U.S. Census
1900 U.S. Census
1910 U.S. Census
1920 U.S. Census
1930 U.S. Census
1940 U.S. Census
Census Indexes and Finding Aids
Using the Soundex with Census Records
Non-Population Schedules and Special Censuses
State and Local Censuses
Census Substitutes
African American Census Schedules
Reconstructed 1790 Census Schedules
Censuses of Native Americans
List of Useful Census References

This article originally appeared in "Census Records" by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Matthew Wright in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

The 1840 census began on 1 June 1840. The enumeration was to be completed within nine months but was extended to eighteen months. The official census population count was 17,063,353.

Questions Asked in the 1840 Census

The 1840 census form called for the name of the head of household; the number of free white males and females in age categories 0 to 5, 5 to 10, 10 to 15, 15 to 20, 20 to 30, 30 to 40, 40 to 50, 50 to 60, 60 to 70, 70 to 80, 80 to 90, 90 to 100, over 100; the number of slaves and free 'colored' persons in age categories; and also had the categories for deaf, dumb, and blind persons and aliens; the town or district; and the county of residence.

Additionally, the 1840 census, asked for the first time the ages of Revolutionary War pensioners and the number of individuals engaged in mining; agriculture; commerce; manufacturing and trade; the navigation of the ocean, canals, lakes, and rivers; learned professions and engineers; the number in school, the number in the family over the age of twenty-one who could not read and write, and the number of insane.

Research Tips for the 1840 Census

The same research strategies used in the previous census apply to the 1840 census. A significant bonus comes from the question regarding revolutionary war pensioners. A search of revolutionary war sources may provide a wealth of genealogical information. A refinement of the occupation categories makes it possible to pursue other occupational sources and easier to distinguish individuals of the same name in the ever-growing population. Reading and writing skills and some indication of the educational level attained add an interesting and more personal dimension to a family history. An indication of the 'insane' within a household might point to guardianship or institutional records. For a state-by-state listing of census schedules, see The 1790'1890 Federal Population Censuses: Catalog of National Archives Microfilm. For boundary changes and identification of missing census schedules, see Thorndale's and Dollarhide's Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790'1920.

Comparison of Census Information, 1790-1940

Personal Info on Census 1790 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1900 1910 1920 1930 1940
Name of family head only
Headcount by age, gender, ...
Standard census form
Names of all individuals
Profession or occupation
Place of birth
Attended school that year
Highest grade completed
Married that year
Read or write
Deaf, blind, insane, idiotic, ...
Real estate value
Personal estate value
Separate slave schedule
Father of foreign birth
Mother of foreign birth
Month of birth
Month of birth that year
Male citizen over 21 years
Male over 21 denied vote
Visitation number of dwelling
Visitation number of family
Street name in city
House number in city
Relationship to family head
Marital status
Month of marriage that year
No. of months unemployed
Father's birthplace sup
Mother's birthplace sup
Sickness on census day
Year of birth
No. of years present marriage
Mother how many children sup
Number of children living
Year of immigration to US
No. of years in US
Naturalization status
Months attended school

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