1850 Census Federal Population Schedule

The 1850 Census contains records for approximately 23 million Americans. The Seventh United States Census officially began on June 1, 1850.

Overview of the 1850 Census

The number of population questions grew in the 1850 census. Every free person's name was to be listed, not just the head of the household.

The marshals also collected additional "social statistics," including information on taxes, schools, crime, wages, value of the estate, etc. and data on mortality.

Each marshal was also responsible for subdividing his district into "known civil divisions," such as counties, townships, or wards, and ensuring that his assistants' returns were completed properly.

The census information for 1850 was not taken until October or November of that year. Some enumerators finished taking their censuses sooner or later than others.

Therefore, the government insisted that any children born after June 1 not be recorded on the census. However, anyone who died after June 1 of that year was to be included.

The census for 1850 included information on agriculture, industry data, mortality and more. It covered both free people and slaves. Some of the questions on the census included real estate ownership, schooling, marriage, age, color, sex, birth territory or country and literacy level.

It also asked for listings of all those who were deaf, mute, blind, or mentally unstable, with separate listings for “insane” and “idiotic.”

The 1850 Census was the first to record the names of every person in a household and an individual’s place of birth. The 1790-1840 censuses listed head of family only.

There were two questionnaires, one for free inhabitants and one for slaves. Freedmen of color were enumerated exactly as a free white person. There were a total of 424,183 freedmen in the 1850 census.

1850 Census Facts

  • 1850 Census Number: 23,191,876
  • 1850 Census Slave Population: 3,204,313
  • 1850 Census Freedmen of color: 424,183
  • 1850 Census Day: June 1, 1850
  • 1850 Census duration: 5 months
  • 1850 Census States: 31 States
  • 1850 Census Territories: 4 Territories
  • % increase of population from 1840 to 1850: 35.9%

Questions Asked in the 1850 Census

Some of the questions answered by the 1850 census included:

Click to View Sample from US 1850 Census of Drew County, AR
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Click to View Sample from US 1850 Census of Drew County, AR

  • Name of each person in household
  • Personal Description
    - Age
    - Sex
    - Color
    - Birthplace
    - Married within previous year
    - Deaf, dumb, blind or insane
    - Occupation
  • Education
    - Attended school in previous year
    - Ability to read and write in English
  • Home Data
    - Value of Real Estate
  • Location
    - City/Village/Town/Borough
    - County

1850 Census Schedules

Six schedules were prepared for the 1850 census. They included:

  • Schedule 1: Free Inhabitants
  • Schedule 2: Slave Inhabitants
  • Schedule 3: Mortality
  • Schedule 4: Production of Agriculture
  • Schedule 5: Products of Industry
  • Schedule 6: Social Statistics

1850 Census Resources

You may find the following resources helpful in your research of the 1850 census data.

1850 United States Federal Census database at Ancestry.com details about 32 million individuals enumerated in the 1850 United States Federal Census, the Seventh Census of the United States.

Additionally, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to actual images of the 1850 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Download Free a US 1850 Census Extract Form which allows you to read column headings and record information from the US Census.

Unique Features of the 1850 Census

Detailed and Protected Data

1850 was the first year that each of the census enumerators was given the same set of printed instructions. That is one reason why the 1850 census is considered to be the “first modern census” taken in the United States.

The instructions explained the reason for asking each question on the census, which eliminated a lot of the confusion and non-uniform answers between states and territories.

The information was better protected and preserved because it required three copies of the information, each to be sent to a different place.

Birthplaces

Birthplaces were included in 1850, allowing family migration routes to be officially tracked for the first time in US history. The result is that the 1850 census is one of the most valuable resources for genealogists. 

Very few states recorded birth and death records officially back in 1850.

However, there were privately kept records, such as those kept by religious institutions. It is possible to use information in the 1850 census in order to locate other records that may have relevant records and facts.

Historical Considerations of the 1850 Census

Native Americans

The Native American population was listed in the 1850 census, referred to as “Indians.” However, Native Americans living on unsettled tracts of land or on government reservations were not listed.

The addition of “Indians not in tribal relations” to the count was meant to help determine the number of representatives that each state or territory received.

Slave Information

The slave listings in the 1850 census were also more detailed than the listings in previous censuses. For example, the 1850 census has listings for manumitted slaves (slaves who were released and became free).

The names of the slaves were not listed, but their sexes, ages and mental and physical health characteristics were listed.

Each slave’s owner was also listed, allowing a slave to be tracked based on the slaveholder’s information.

10 Largest Urban Places in 1850

Rank Place Population
1 New York City, NY 515,547
2 Baltimore, MD 169,054
3 Boston, MA 136,181
4 Philadelphia, PA 121,376
5 New Orleans, LA 116,375
6 Cincinnati, OH 115,435
7 Brooklyn, NY 96,838
8 St. Louis, MO 77,860
9 Spring Garden District, PA 58,894
10 Albany, NY 50,763

Interesting facts about the 1850 census

  • Millard Fillmore is President during the 1850 census. Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President following Zachary Taylor’s death on July 9, 1850
  • The U.S. population increased by 35.9 percent from the 1840 census to the 1850 census.
  • The 1850 census took approximately $1,423,000 and 3,231 enumerators to complete the 1850 census.
  • The 1850 census was the first in which free persons were listed individually and the first census with separate questionnaires about slaves.
  • This is the first census where the enumerator (census taker) was actually given a map (with districts) of the area they were to cover.
  • Indians that lived on reservations or unsettled tracts of land were not included.
  • Enumerators make two extra copies of the original census: 1) one for the county clerk 2) one for the state/territory.

Historical events surrounding the 1850 US Census

  • February 28, 1850 - University of Utah was founded making it the oldest university West of the Mississippi River.
  • April 4, 1850 - City of Los Angeles incorporated.
  • April 15, 1850 - City of San Francisco incorporated.
  • Junes 6, 1850 - Levi Strauss makes his first pair of blue jeans.
  • July 9, 1850 - Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President following Zachary Taylor’s death.
  • September 8, 1850 - Fugitive Slave Act was passed ordering escaped slaves captured in free states be returned to their masters.
  • 1852 - Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was published.
  • February 28, 1854 - The Republican Party was founded.
  • March 23, 1857 - First Elevator is installed by Elisha Ottis.

States Covered in the 1850 Census

1850 Census Map
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1850 Census Map

As the country grew, the number of states and territories covered increased. If you are using the 1850 census to do genealogy research, you will have access to information covering 36 different areas.

The 1850 Census recorded information from 31 states and 4 territories.  The new states of Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas and Missouri were included, as well as the Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah Territories.

The 31 states included in the 1850 Census were AlabamaArkansasCaliforniaConnecticutDelaware, FloridaGeorgiaIllinoisIndianaIowaKentuckyLouisianaMaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMississippiMissouriNew HampshireNew JerseyNew YorkNorth CarolinaOhioPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaTennesseeTexas, VermontVirginiaWisconsin and the District of Columbia.

What was lost from the 1850 U.S. Census?

The 1850 census was the first to not experience any major loss of records.

U.S. 1850 Population by State

New York 3,097,394
Pennsylvania 2,311,786
Ohio 1,980,329
Virginia ‭1,421,661‬
Tennessee 1,002,717
Massachusetts 994,514
Indiana 988,416
Kentucky 982,405
Georgia 906,185
North Carolina 869,039
Illinois 851,470
Alabama 771,623
Missouri 682,044
South Carolina 668,507
Mississippi 606,526
Maine 583,169
Maryland 583,034
Louisiana 517,762
New Jersey 489,555
Michigan 397,654
Connecticut 370,792
New Hampshire 317,976
Vermont 314,120
Wisconsin 305,391
Texas 212,592
Arkansas 209,897
Iowa 192,214
Rhode Island 147,545
California 92,597
Delaware 91,532
Florida 87,445
New Mexico Territory 61,547
District of Columbia 51,687
Oregon Territory 12,093
Utah Territory 11,380
Minnesota Territory 6,077
Washington Territory 1,201
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