Friday, February 1, 2008

Notes on Researching the Itawamba County Federal Decennial Census Schedules

Good census research is one of the foundations of genealogical studies and it is always wise to have an in-depth understanding of the census-taking mechanics of the particular census being studied.

For instance, the 1850 census of Itawamba County contains two census districts – District 6 and District 7. The town of Fulton was in District 7. It is evident that western Itawamba was located in District 6 and eastern Itawamba was located in District 7. The line between the two districts could have possibly been the Tombigbee River.

The 1860 census of Itawamba County was enumerated by communities and villages. The following locations were used: Bexar, Bigby Fork, Campbellton, Carrollville, Cummingsville, Fulton, Guntown, Marietta, Mooresville, Oak Farm, Ozark, Pleasanton, Plantersville, Priceville, Richmond, Ryans Well, Saltillo, Smithville and Tremont.

This 1860 Itawamba County census is quite confusing as it appears the enumerator skips between communities. For instance, in browsing through this census, a page or two may be an enumeration of the Carrollville community, then the next few pages may be Marietta or Richmond, then several pages later, the researcher will return to Carrollville again. It is simply like a shuffled deck of cards. It has also been noted by some researchers that ancestors are listed in a community who never lived in that community. So there appears there can be major problems with the enumeration order of the 1860 Itawamba County census. For a detailed study of this situation see the Volume XXV Number 2 (Summer 2005) issue of Itawamba Settlers magazine for the article Integrity of the 1860 Itawamba County Census.

The 1870 census contains only one census district – Fulton. Regardless of where the enumerated family lived, Fulton P.O. was always given as the location. So in this census always remember because the page lists Fulton P.O. as the location, does not necessarily indicate that the enumerated lived in or even remotely near Fulton.

It is always important to view the actual assistant marshals’ instructions for a particular census to fully understand the census process for that particular census year. For instance, during the 1850 census part of the instructions about enumerating household residents reads: “The name of any member of a family who may have died since the 1st day of June is to be enumerated as if living, but the name of any person born since the 1st day of June is to be omitted.” According to these instructions, if the enumerator visited a household on July 20, 1850 and your ancestor had died on May 10, 1850, the deceased ancestor would be enumerated as if still living. If a child had been born in the household on June 10, 1850 and the enumerator visited the household on August 1, 1850 the child would not be enumerated.

An excellent well-illustrated guide to the decennial censuses complete with questionnaires and instructions for each census is the publication, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000. This 140-page publication is in PDF format and available from the U.S. Census Bureau. This free publication can be downloaded in segments. The segment containing pages 5 through 96 deals with questionnaires and instructions given the enumerators from the 1790 census through the 1990 census and is a 3.07 megabyte download. This section is chock-full of detailed information about the 19th Century census taking process and is an important resource for genealogical researchers well worth the download time.

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