Genealogy records can be found on countless websites on the Internet. These vital pieces of information about our ancestors seem to be everywhere online. The 1850 census records are just one of these resources that you can use for your research.
In this post, I will show you what these records have to offer and where you can find them.
So, if you want to know more about your heritage then please read on.
Discussed in this post:
What’s In These Records?
When it comes to these records you get a snapshot of your ancestors’ lives. At the time of this census, June 1st, 1850, there were 31 states of the Union and also four territories.
The first time that individuals were recorded!
This census was the first time that the names of individuals would be recorded.
This, therefore, makes it an important record for the family historian to find and use. It gives them an early account of your ancestor together with his or her family.
Although you will have to take care when you record the information that you find about other members of the household.
This is because no relationships were added between each of the people listed and the person at the head of the household.
So, please be careful when you record a ‘wife’. It could be possible that this ancestor is not the wife but maybe a sister, or even a sister-in-law for that matter.
The accuracy of these records exceeded that of previous censuses.
This was because enumerators were given printed instructions to follow to gain information from the population.
The 11 key elements of the 1850 census records!
The first field is an important element for you to find your ancestor by their name.
Please be careful though that you have found the right person.
Check where this person was living at the time of the census records and also other information added, such as their occupation.
If you cannot find your ancestor within the records then there are two options that I can suggest to you.
Try alternative spellings of their name, either their first name or surname or even a combination of both. You may find your ancestor this way.
I sure have.
The second option is to enter your ancestor’s initials instead of their first and middle names.
Checking the age of the person listed is a good indication that you have found the right person.
There however may be an error when it comes to this piece of information so please just use it as a guide for now if you are not sure of your ancestor’s exact year of birth.
This key element will show whether you are looking at a male or female.
This again may seem obvious but sometimes some names can be used for both a man and a woman.
So, it does help to have a little bit of clarity.
Later censuses would ask about the individual’s race. For the 1850 census records, it was just the color of their skin.
This can still help you to identify the race of your ancestor.
And also where to possibly look for your ancestor’s birth certificate or records.
Possible answers included white, black, or mulatto.
This information was only recorded for males and if they were older than 15 years of age.
This is another good indicator for you to use to know whether you are looking at the right person and that they are your ancestor.
Value of real estate
The government wanted to know the value of the land and in particular what the worth of the individual’s real estate was.
This is a great piece of information that you can use if you intend to write up the story of your ancestors.
You can say whether they went from rags to riches or even the other way. I have found this element to be useful for me in this regard.
Again another good indicator that you can use to check whether you have found your ancestor’s record. Listed within this field is the state, territory, or country that the individual was born in.
Attended school/Married within the year
These are two simple yes or no questions that were asked in the 1850 census records.
It is another good indication of the individual’s age, particularly if the age recorded on the form is illegible.
Could read or write
This was asked if the individual was over the age of 20. It was important for the government to know the level of literacy of the population.
Infirmity, pauper, or convict
Another key element that the government was interested in was the infirmity of the individual. The possible answers were deaf-mute, blind, insane, or idiotic.
The last question on the 1850 census record also asked whether the person was listed as a pauper or even a convict.
Today family historians have embraced their convict ancestors.
This is particularly true for Australian citizens, where more than one-fifth of the current population can claim to have a convict ancestor.
There are many ‘skeletons’ in the family closet and with the aid of this question, you may find one in your family too.
Where Can I Find These Records?
So now you have learned what you can find within these records. You have seen that they offer so much information that you can use for your genealogy research.
But where can you find these records I hear you ask?
Your FREE option!
When it comes to the FREE option then I highly recommend that you go to the FamilySearch website.
I have found so many of my ancestors by using this site and that’s because they have millions of records for you to search through.
That’s not to say though that searching their site is a mammoth exercise. It’s not, it is relatively easy.
However, this site does have its drawbacks.
One of them is that you may not be able to find all that you are looking for within their database.
And you will therefore need to look at the paid options.
There will come a time when you will need to spend some money on your family history project.
It is inevitable. It’s the same with any other hobby.
You have to pay for equipment or whatever is needed for your hobby and genealogy is no exception.
Your PAID options!
And that is because they have billions of names for you to search through.
Better luck with the paid sites!
There is more of a chance for you to find your ancestors within the databases of these two sites.
If you cannot find your ancestor on one of these sites then I do suggest that you check the other.
The reason for this is that these sites will index their records differently.
There may also be transcription errors when it comes to the people responsible for entering details from these records into their database.
This is because the enumerator’s handwriting may not be legible and so the transcriber will have guessed what had been written.
This can lead to errors.
And so if one site may have incorrectly indexed a record then you may have better luck finding your ancestor on the other site that I have offered you to search.
My Final Thoughts!
The 1850 census records do offer you so much information that you can use to build out your family tree.
But do not get carried away when it comes to finding ancestors and going off on a tangent.
It is so easy to do this. Trust me because I have done that.
I have searched for one ancestor and then seen something of interest with say his partner. I have then followed the path and before you know it I am looking at a cousin’s records.
Now, this is not to say that I am not interested in this cousin.
As I have said at the start of this post I am fascinated with finding cousins. But in going along this path I have essentially stopped what I was doing and moved on.
Work on one ancestor at a time!
You need to find all that you can on one ancestor, assimilate and enter that information and then move on to the next ancestor.
One way that you can make sense of what you have found is to write a family history book.
By trying to put into words what you have found you can then ask yourself questions as to your ancestor’s life. Questions such as their migration as I have posted earlier.
Also, for anyone interested in your family history it is far easier for them to read a book rather than look at charts or reports.
How dull is that?
By writing a story you make your family history far more enjoyable for them, and you as well.
You can see where what is missing from your story of your ancestor’s life and what you need to research next about him or her.
After reading this helpful guide you may want to check out further information regarding US Census Records.
Why not head on over to the United States Census Bureau for help with your genealogy research.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this post explaining what you can learn from the 1850 census records. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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