1880 Census Records

What Can You Learn From The 1880 Census Records?

Census records contain so much information about your ancestry. From personal experience, they can tell you many different details about the lives of your ancestors.

The 1880 Census Records in particular can offer you a lot of data that you can use for your genealogy research.

1880 Census Records

So, please read on and I will explain it all to you!

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What’s In These Records?

The 1880 census gives us a snapshot of our ancestors’ lives from when it was taken on June 1st of that year.

1880 Census Records Blank Form

* Please visit National Archives for full blank form *

Thirteen different elements make up this census which I will explain below.

There were 50 million individuals recorded in this census.

The 1880 records have become an essential resource for the family historian as the 1890 collection was largely destroyed by fire.


This will be the key element that will help you to find your ancestor.

Please bear in mind that if you do not find your ancestor through this method then there are a few tips that I can offer you.

You could try alternative spellings of your ancestor’s surname, or maybe entering their initials instead.

Failing that you could try searching for their partner or children instead.

This has been particularly helpful to me when I have not been able to find an elusive ancestor of mine.


From this element you can find out whether they were listed as:

  • White (W)
  • Black (B)
  • Chinese (C)
  • Indian (I) – First time featured in the census records
  • Mulatto (M)

Color or race

Month of birth

This element is given if your ancestor was born within a year of the census

Relation to head of household

This question featured for the first time I need the 1880s census records. You can tell from this element whether a person listed with your ancestor was a partner, child, sibling, etc.

This can help you to fill out your family tree appropriately.

Also, it is particularly helpful for another reason.

For example, if someone is listed with your family with the same surname you may think that they are a relation.

Taking note of what is entered in this field can help you tell whether they are or not.

Marital Status

There are four different answers that your ancestor could have answered for this question.

Marital Status

The four possible answers given were:

  • Single,
  • Married,
  • Widowed,
  • Divorced

You can again learn a lot from this field of census records.

For example, if your ancestor was listed as widowed you will have a limit as to when their partner had died.

You know that this census was in 1880 and that it was taken from June 1.


Your ancestor would have answered this question if he had married within a year of the census.

Occupation or months unemployed

Another key piece of information that you can learn from the 1880 census records is what your ancestor did for a living. This is great as you can get to know them.

I have learned a lot about my ancestor by studying further what their job entailed.

It’s one thing to know that your ancestor was a shoemaker for example, but what was involved with their work, what tools did they use, and how big was their business.

You can find out so much about your ancestor from this one question of the records. It makes you explore their lives more closely.

Check Out Old Occupations and Their Meanings!


The 1880 census records also included for the first time information regarding the state, county, and any other subdivisions.

When searching for your ancestor online you can enter this information to narrow down your search. Of course, you can enter this if you already know where they were born.

And if you don’t know then this is another link to your ancestor’s life that you can find out about.

Parents’ birthplace

Following on from the previous question you can also find out where your ancestor’s parents were born. \This information is vital for helping you to trace your family tree further back.

House and Land

School attendance

This question was answered if your ancestor was in school within a year of the census records taking place.

Unable to read

This question would have been answered by a parent if your ancestor was unable to read if they were over the age of ten years.\ You can from this whether your ancestor was illiterate.

Unable to read

Sick or temporarily disabled

The government wanted to know whether the person listed in the census was sick or temporarily disabled when this record was taken place.


Another question posed which was similar to the previous question was the listed person’s infirmity.

This question, and the previous one, can give you clues as to your ancestor’s genetic diseases.

The possible answers given were:

  • Blind,
  • Deaf-mute,
  • Idiotic,
  • Insane, or
  • Permanently disabled

Where Can I Find These Records?

By now you are probably wondering where you can find the 1880 census records and start looking for your ancestors. Here, I will present to you three possible options.

Where can I find the 1880 census records

The first is a free option followed by the ones that you will need to pay for.

Your FREE option!

The first website that I suggest that you go to is FamilySearch.

This is a FREE site that you can search for your ancestors. There are over 3 million names within their database collection and millions of records.

However, despite being a free option there does come a disadvantage with this site.

Unfortunately, there may be the case that you will not find your ancestor within their database.

For this reason, I suggest you look at the following two paid options.

Your PAID options!

Two options that are available to you are Ancestry and FindMyPast, both of which I have used extensively for my genealogy research. They have given me so much information that I have been able to work with.

Credit: Ancestry

But there is a disadvantage to that.

Is it bad to have too much?!

As I mentioned earlier I became obsessed with finding my ancestors and any possible relation that I could find.

There are so many records with these two sites so it is really easy to find your ancestors.

So, it isn’t a bad thing, you just need to know when to stop and to assimilate what you have collected.

Because there is a higher chance of you finding your ancestors with these two sites it is therefore worth checking them out.

But only do so when you have exhausted your search on FamilySearch.

Also, if you are not able to find your ancestor on Ancestry then please try your luck on FindMyPast, or vice versa.

You may have a better chance of finding them.

My Final Thoughts!

There is just so much information that you can collect from the 1880 census records. Remember though to pace yourself.

So, whenever you do find your ancestor in these records then put them into your genealogy program.

Once you have entered their name, date of birth, and any other data that you find then why not write a family history book.

I have found that by doing this you digest the information that you have found and also make you think about your ancestor’s life as well.

For example, if you find that your ancestor wasn’t living with the rest of the family as well you may ask yourself why was this?

Why was he not with his wife and children?

Was it because of work or for some other reason?

This is just one example.

You can tell so much from these census records.

It can lead you to other records and also give you some questions to ponder over.

Further Information!

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 1880 census records. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

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Article Name
What Do The 1880 Census Records Hold?
The 1880 Census Records contain a wealth of information. This guide shows what is included in these records and where you can access them.
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The Genealogy Guide
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