Did you know the U. S. Census created a Mortality Schedule in 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and some states did it in 1885? These can be a valuable find if your ancestor died within the time period the schedule included. Additionally, some tie directly back to the population schedule.
However, many people do not read them correctly. So let’s take a look at each one.
For every year, you can search to find the instructions the enumerator was to follow. Most of the time, they did but occasionally, you might find where an enumerator either misunderstood or chose to ignore them. This is the set of instructions from the 1880 U. S. Census for completing the Mortality Schedule.
Most importantly we need to know the dates of the schedule. In most cases, it is the year ending on 31 May which means, you go back one year to the same date and anyone who died between that date and 31 May of the census year is counted. In other words, anyone who died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850 is to be included. You must look at the month the person died to determine what year to apply and this is one of the most common mistakes people make with mortality (and other) schedules.
Below is a couple of excerpts from the 1850 U. S. Census Mortality Schedule and Population Schedule from Barnwell District, North Carolina. [i] As stated, we see in the heading, “Persons who Died during the Year ending 1st June, 1850.” Emphasis added. So these people may have died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850. We see many here whose color is listed as ‘B’ for Black but no indication of whether they were enslaved at the time or not and no last names in this example. Unfortunately, the enumerator was not instructed to make any distinction pertaining to their status. We see on line three, a 39-year-old lady named Likey, who was born in North Carolina but died of pneumonia, who had been a cook, and was sick for 21 days. Without additional information, it might be difficult to determine more about her and her family but there are some places to look. Tax records often record the names and ages of enslaved people by the owner and might give insight. Many wills and estate packets list the names and ages of enslaved people and occasionally, their occupations. Don’t give up, keep looking.
We also see a 34-year-old Margaret Kemp who worked as a laborer. It would be worth looking at the 1840 census for a Kemp family in Barnwell District to see if a family can be found that she would fit.
Below, on lines 2 and 3 we see a possible family from page 64. Once again, William Edenfield is 45 when he died in March 1850. We would expect to find a man named William in the 30 – 39 age category, instead, the schedule shows him being 40 – 49. A good researcher will not reject these as being the same man, we understand that censuses are notoriously inaccurate. If 11-year-old Charles is William’s son, he could be one of the 4 boys under five recorded in 1840 as shown below. Since the schedule’s year ended 1 June 1850, then Charles died in July of 1849. This is a common mistake people make, same as Louisa Frader, she died in August of 1849, not 1850.
1840 U. S. Census for Barnwell District. [ii]
We have taken a look at one method to know which families these souls belonged to, there are several others. Unless the surname is unique or there is some other indication, you simply do not know for sure. You will have to research other records to see the best options.
Let’s take a look at the 1860 Mortality Schedule. [iii] We see here in Pierce County, Georgia that a white, male, 71 years old who was born in South Carolina died of Typhoid.
We know he was white because this particular enumerator only identified Black and Mulatto people. Furthermore, we see he was married at the time of his death so we should find a widow. I have included both 48-year-old Joseph and 12-year-old Rhoda Ann because Lewis was my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph was his son and Rhoda Ann was Joseph’s daughter. There was an apparent Typhoid epidemic that year. Lewis died in January so that would be 1860 but both Joseph and Rhoda Ann died in 1859. Note that there is no indication as to what militia district any of the deceased lived in when they died.
If we look at the 1860 population schedule in militia district 1181, dwelling 159, family 163, the schedule shows a 65-year-old Elizabeth Thomas living, her son and daughter-in-law and their family there as well. Since she is listed as head of household, it appears to be her place.
What about 1870? [iv] Indiana, like many of the other states, has a consolidated mortality schedule at the state level but is divided by county. Here is the first time we see a direct correlation between the mortality and population schedules. First, we see this page covers Charlestown, Clark County, in Indiana.
Note that Robert Sikes, age 14 belonged to family # 18. When we look at the Charlestown portion of the population schedule, we see at the top, the house of Thomas Sikes in family 18.
You may see that there is also a daughter named Martha who is 14, she could be a twin but this would require more research. However, it is easier to tie the deceased to a specific household, not necessarily a family. If there is more than one enumeration district, you may need to look through all pages with a family with dwelling and family # 18. There is no indication of exactly how the deceased is related to the family. The only hints we might find is when the deceased was married then we would expect to find a widow or widower.
The last U. S. Mortality Schedule was in 1880 and it is even easier to tie to the household. [v] The Supervisor and Enumeration Districts are in the header.
So we see here on the 4th line an entry for Harry Hargis and little Harry belongs to family # 119 in Supervisor District 1, Enumeration District #123. When we look at the population schedule we can see the Hargis family.
Are you beginning to see the valuable information you may find within the mortality schedules? Of course, this is only helpful if your ancestor died within the time specified for that schedule.
To see what states had mortality schedules download this pdf from the census bureau. https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/mortality.pdf
There are many other schedules the government made while doing the census and you may want to look closely at each of them.
[i] 1850 U. S. Census, Barnwell District, South Carolina, Mortality Schedule, page 60 (inked), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication T 655, roll 7.
[ii] 1840 U. S. Census, Barnwell District, South Carolina, Population Schedule, page 191 (stamped), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication M704, roll 508.
[v] 1880 U. S. Census, Cook County, Illionois, Mortality Schedule, Supervisor’s District 1, Enumerator’s District 123, page 1 (inked), image, FamilySearch.org (www.familysearch.org: accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.