Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Secret Hiding on the 1840 U.S. Census

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As an avid genealogist, you likely know the first U.S. census to include the names of all the persons in a household was 1850. Before that, the federal census only named the head-of-household, and the other members of the family were simply a tic mark in the appropriate age and gender columns.

Hidden Secret in the 1840 U.S. Census

But, there is a secret hiding on the 1840 U.S. census. On the back of this census, the enumerators recorded those who were receiving Revolutionary War and other service pensions by name and age. The lists also named the head-of-household in which the individual was residing.

These lists were published in A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services; with their Names, Ages, and Places of Residence, as Returned by the Marshals of the Several Judicial Districts, under the Act for Taking the Sixth Census and you can review this publication for free at several online book repositories, like Internet Archive. The book is organized by state, then county.

Better yet, you can search the list quickly by name at the Findmypast database titled "1840 United States Census, Revolutionary War Veterans," which is a bit easier in my opinion.

If you don't have a subscription to Findmypast, you can also see the digital images of this census at Ancestry.com. At Ancestry, you will need to search the 1840 U.S. census directly. You can search for the Veteran's or widow's name, and filter by county, and state. You will first see the transcription.


Screenshot from Ancestry.com

As you can see, he is listed as the "Veteran." When you click on the image, you are taken to the second 'page' of sheet 183 (stamped). Here you can see Stephen Googins, age 86 is listed.


Screenshot of 1840 census from Ancestry.com

To determine whose home he is living in, you will need to view the page prior.


Screenshot from 1840 census at Ancestry.com


As you can see above, Stephen Googins was living in the home of Alexander Googins of York County, Maine.

Why is this Information Important

This is a great piece of information. First of all, the Veteran is likely a Revolutionary War Veteran due to his age. If he is your ancestor, he is your ticket into the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution.) Though this census would not be considered a primary source for a parent/child relationship between Stephen and Alexander, it certainly qualifies as a piece of indirect evidence of some sort of relationship.

As I mentioned before, not only were the Veterans' themselves listed, but if their widow was receiving the pension instead, she was listed by name and age. Here is an example of Abigail Hobbs, age 72 living in the home of James Hobbs.


Screenshot of 1840 census at Ancestry.com

Finding named women with ages is almost unheard of prior to 1850, so this is a pretty big deal!

If you are unsure there is a veteran in your family pedigree, take a look at several of your targeted ancestors in the 1840 census. This might be the brick wall buster you have been searching for!

For more helpful articles on genealogy techniques, you may enjoy:
"Courthouse Research from Home"
"Protect Your Work: Genealogy Insurance"

FREE video tutorials online at YouTube:
"Finding Unindexed Records on FamilySearch"
"Three Ways to Find a Birth Date"

Are you a member of Legacy Family Tree Webinars? If you are, head on over to the site to view one of my three online webinars:
"Crowdsourcing with Social Media to Overcome Brick Walls"
"Enriching Your Family History Through Pictures and Stories"
"Tech Savvy Scrapbooking and Journaling for Family History"


31 comments:

  1. I checked two different counties in Mississippi at Ancestry for just such a list after reading this. I could not find anything like this at the end of them.

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    1. Prob because a Rev War veteran didn't move to those counties .....

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    2. It is possible there were no living pensioners in those counties, however that does seem unlikely. I would love to give it a look for you. If you want to share the counties in Mississippi you were looking into, I will take a gander! Thanks for reading!

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  2. This is timely information for me! Thanks!

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  3. Well I went to the first book listed, but couldn't decipher it at all.

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    1. archive.org usually brings up a very basic text version of a book, which IS difficult to read and decipher. But there is usually a little button which says "See other formats" and if you click on that it brings up the scanned version of the book that you can "page through", just as if you were reading it. If it is very small on your screen, click on the magnifying glass symbol, and it should bring up some extra icons, including + and - so that you can zoom in etc. Hope that helps!

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    2. What Deborah said! I agree, the format is weird if you don't look at the scanned version! Thanks for answering, Deborah!

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  4. Thanks for this - looks like it could be very useful!

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  5. Thanks for posting this great article with accompanying photos.

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  6. Great information Amie. Can't wait to check it out for myself. Thank you for posting.

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  7. Great information - what a cool treat in the 1840 census!

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  8. Great information. Thank you. I can't wait to check this out. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. WOW-after all these years of doing research I learned something new. THANK YOU!!!

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  10. SO awesome! Will start researching right now! Thanks thanks and thanks again!

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  12. Thanks for this "new to me" information. Isn't this why we love researching our ancestors? Always something new to learn and it is never boring. I will be checking those 1840 census records today, you can be sure.
    Great post Amie!

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  13. I copied and saved this article in a word file with the pictures. Great information, will use it quite a bit.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  14. Where would one look for people not born in the USA.

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    1. Hi! Sorry to take so long to get back to you. Well, if your targeted person wasn't born in the U.S., but lived in the U.S. in the 184os, they would likely still appear on the census. If you are looking for a person who was born AND lived outside the U.S., you would need to search that countries census holdings. You can learn more about those censuses on the FamilySearch Wiki at https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page. Search for something like United Kingdom census, or Netherlands Census, etc. Best of luck!

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  15. GREAT!! If anyone is descendant of Anthony and Sarah Stein of Weisenburg, Berks and Upper Mahantong, PA and finds info on him PLEASE let me know in the 1840 census info. We have hired 2 genealogists and extensive research has been done but we can't find where he was born, buried, his parents or siblings but we DO have the children and on down from there. Thanks if you have something. Sue

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  16. Some times you can also find this information or other on the second page of the 1830 census also. I always look on both pages, as Maybe I am missing a bit of information.

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  17. Thanks - I saw your post on Reddit! I have found an ancestor I know to have been a Revolutionary War pensioner in the 1840 census (Michael Widener, Washington County, Virginia, born 1758). You mentioned just flipping over to the previous page to find the household in which he was living, however there are no names listed unless I go 6 pages prior. The names found 6 pages prior don't really seem to match. Am I missing something?

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    1. Carly, So sorry it has taken awhile to get back to you. When I found Michael Widener in the 1840 census for Washington County, I clicked on the image just prior (#114) and see that he is listed as living in the home of "Michael Widener, Sr." This means that he is both the head-of-household and the pensioner. I was using Ancestry when I found this. Hope it helps!

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  18. Good to note, however of my 19 known revolutionary ancestors, (or Patriots - as we call them in the DAR!) none of them were still alive in 1840. NONE! Guess we don't have longevity on our side. Since I was a HS sennior in 1976, and 18 yo, now I'm wondering if I'll make it to the 2040 Census.

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    1. Are you kidding me?! That's awful!! Well, here's to hoping you outlive them all!

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  19. I had no idea! I will have to go check my people now. Thanks for sharing.

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