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:
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
10 Largest Urban Places in 1850
New York City, NY
New Orleans, LA
St. Louis, MO
Spring Garden District, PA
U.S. 1850 Population by State
New Mexico Territory
District of Columbia
States Covered in the 1850 Census
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.