The 1840 census was actually taken over a period of a year and a half, beginning on June 1, 1840. Therefore, it contains some records that were taken in that year, but also several records that were taken the following year.
There were several basic questions covered by the 1840 census that were also covered in previous censuses. For example, the 1840 censuses recorded the ages of free white males and females in the same way.
The age categories began with 5-year increments, which included 0 to 5, 5 to 10, 10 to 15 and 15 to 20.
Then they increased in 10-year increments until age 100. Finally, there was a category for anyone 100 or older. Town, district, or county of residence was also covered, as were the questions of “free colored persons,” slaves, and aliens.
Enumerators were asked to send the original or a copy to Washington.
The first family would have been recorded in June 1, 1840 and the last family in December 1, 1841. The numbers shown in the categories did not distinguish between who was family and any others who were in the household such as relatives, friends, employees, visitors, boarders, servants.
No matter when the census taker came, he was to record who was in the house as of June 1, 1840. If a child was born after this date they were not to be counted.
If a person died before this date, they were not to be counted. It is very probable the census taker just recorded who was there the day they arrived.
As the genealogist moves from 1840-1850, they have been able to see the actual names of family members. This is the last or the first census depending on how you view it that only the head of household is listed and members of the household are counted.
A state recorded a population of over two million (New York)
A city recorded a population of over 300,000 (New York)
Multiple cities recorded populations of over 100,000 (New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans)
Historical events surrounding the 1840 US Census
March 4, 1841 - William Henry Harrison (“Old Tippacanoe”) dies. After he wins the 1840 election by defeating incumbent Martin Van Buren. Harrison is inaugurated in a lengthy outdoor ceremony on March 4, 1841 contracts pneumonia
1842 - Colonel John C. Fremont leads an expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains.
1845 - Ireland’s "Potato Famine" forces large numbers of Irish immigrants to come the United States.
1845 - Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.
January 23, 1849 - Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to be awarded a medical degree.
10 Largest Urban Places in 1840
New York City, NY
New Orleans, LA
Northern Liberties District, PA
U.S. 1840 Population by State
District of Columbia
States Covered in the 1840 Census
1840 Census Map
The 1840 Census recorded information from 26 states and 4 territories. The new states of Arkansas and Michigan were included, as well as the Iowa Territory, Wisconsin Territory, Oregon Territory and Florida Territory.