1840 United States Census

Record Description

Population schedules consisted of large sheets with rows and columns. The schedules were arranged by place, such as township or post office. The places were not filed in any particular order. The arrangement of families on a schedule is normally in the order in which the enumerator visited the households. The original schedules are well preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. They were microfilmed in the 1950s and 1960s. The schedules for some counties in varying censuses are missing.

The U.S. federal census was conducted each decade from 1790 to the present. This information pertains to censuses conducted in 1840. 

Federal census takers were asked to record information about every person who was in each household on the census day, which was June 1 for 1840. A census taker might have visited a house on a later date, but the information he collected was supposed to be about the people who were in the house on the census day. The basic census enumeration unit was the county. Each county was divided into enumeration districts, one for each enumerator. The completed forms were sent to the Commerce Department's Census Office in Washington, D.C.

This census (1840) provides names for heads of household, for about 10 to 15 percent of the population, and provides only a number count for the others.

The U.S. federal census was taken at the beginning of every decade to apportion the number of representatives that a state could send to the House of Representatives.

Federal censuses are usually reliable, depending on the knowledge of the informant and the care of the census enumerator. Information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or by a neighbor. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.

Record Content

The 1840 censuses included the following genealogical information:

* City, County and state in which census was taken
* Name of head of household
* Number of free white males and females under the age of 5
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 5-10
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 10-15
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 15-20
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 20-30
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 30-40
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 40-50
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 50-60
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 60-70
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 70-80
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 80-90
* Number of free white males and females between the ages of 90-100
* Number of free white males and females age 100 or older
* Sometimes, the name and age of Revolutionary War pensioners