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.
The 1840 census asked an occupation of each person. Separate were prepared for each occupation of which very view have survived.
1840 Census Facts
1840 Census Number: 17,069,453
1840 Census Slave Population: 2,487,355
1840 Census Day: June 1, 1840
1840 Census duration: 18 months
1840 Census States: 26 States
1840 Census Territories: 4 Territories
% increase of population from 1830 to 1840: 32.7%
Questions Asked in the 1840 Census
Some of the questions answered by the 1840 census included:
Click to View Sample from US 1840 Census of Cherokee County, AL
Name of head of family
Number of free white males and females
in five-year age groups to age 20
in 10-year age groups from 20 to 100
100 years and older
number of slaves and free colored persons in six age groups
number of deaf and dumb, by race
number of blind, by race
number of insane and idiotic in public or private charge, by race
number of persons in each family employed in seven classes of occupation
number of schools and number of scholars
number of white persons over 20 who could not read and write
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.
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.