Overview of the 1820 Census
The 1820 began on August 7, 1820 and was originally intended to be taken over a period of 6 months. However, it was legally extended to a period of 13 months. Therefore, the census also contains some information that was recorded in 1821.
The 1820 census included similar information to that which was contained in previous censuses. That information included the number of free white females and males listed according to age groups. It also included the number of slaves owned by the family, if applicable.
However, the 1820 census was the first census to include certain new information.
Unique Features of the 1820 Census
New Types of Information – The 1820 census was the first to list “free white males 16 to 18″ and it was the first to ask for “the number of colored persons” in a household. The 1820 census also asked about the industries of household members, requesting a listing for all those engaged in commercial business, manufacturing, or agriculture. It was the first census to ask for “number of persons not naturalized.”
The naturalization column on the 1820 census offers some useful information. It can be used to estimate how long each listed person was a US resident. That information can then be used to search court records from the time for copies of that person’s naturalization papers.
Age Discrepancies – One of the goals of the 1820 census seemed to be to identify each young man’s age more accurately. However, some of the age categories were a bit redundant and confusing. For example, a person might be listed in the “16 to 18″ category or in the “over 16 and under 26 category.” This might cause some problems in accurately calculating how many people lived in each household.
Historical Considerations of the 1820 Census
Slaves and Free African Americans – The “free men of color” of the time were listed if they were head of household. Slaves were listed according to the name of the slaveholder. In either case, you might be able to determine the names of family members of the free men or slaves in question. However, to do this you may have to compare the census information with tax lists and probate inventory lists.
States Covered in the 1820 Census
The 1820 census covers the District of Columbia, as well as the following 22 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia
Resources for the 1820 Census
The 1820 manufacturing schedules are preserved on microfilm. The twenty-nine rolls of microfilm contain information about the occupations of all of those in each household who held jobs. Some of the schedules also list “colored persons” and, in some cases, they list the ages of the people in question.
The following resources may also help you in your research of 1820 census data: