Blog 2022 07 17   When Census Records Don’t Exist 

We often wonder how we can track our ancestors between the census or when, for whatever reason, they do not appear in the census.  What other records might be available?

Taxes are my favorite go-to records.  Property Taxes and Poll Taxes have been around since before the Revolution.  Sometimes called Quitrents under the Colonial system, it was a tax.  While the Poll Tax took on new meaning post-Civil War, it also was a tax, typically on free men of militia age, and goes back before the US Revolution.

Wherever you are researching, you should look for tax records.

In many of the colonies, the landowners paid a Quitrent which was nothing more than a property tax based on acreage or cleared acreage.  One thing to keep in mind is to compare the date the land was granted by the King vs when the Royal Governor granted the land.  In one example, the King’s grant did not come until many years after the Governor and Royal Council granted the land.

The first federal tax levied against the population was in 1798 when America thought they might be going to war against France [i]and needed to raise $2 Million quickly.  The tax known as the Glass Tax or Window Pane Tax, taxed buildings based on square footage and heavily on windows. [ii] One example where this tax could be helpful is distinguishing men with the same name.  The information includes the person’s name, dimensions, and material of the main house and all other buildings such as kitchen, stables, and barns.

You may not know that the first Income Tax was between 1862 and 1872 for the northern states and 1865 – 1872 for the states who joined the Confederacy.  Congress needed to raise money for the war effort and instituted a tax on all income over $600 per year.  It was a progressive tax in that, all income between $600 and $10,000 was taxed at 3% and all income over $10,000 was taxed at 5%.  Then in 1864, it was raised to 5% for income over $600 and now less than $5,000 and 10% for all income over $5,000.

What we can glean from the Civil War Income Tax might continue to distinguish people with the same or similar names and can put them in a specific location.  This is because the source of the income, in detail, is listed.  Information such as, operating a distillery and paying for 3,755 barrels of Brandy made from grape, 2,901 barrels of Brandy NOT made from grape, and other types of liquor.  While another person nearby with the same name might have been a rancher with 126 head of cattle, 5 calves, 10 hogs, 75 head of sheep, etc.  If you knew the line of business your ancestor was in, you can determine exactly which tax record belongs to whom.

Property Tax records are among my favorites when they can be found.  These also asked about income but depending on what the Federal or State opted to tax, certain personal property was also taxed.  In California, they taxed items such as pianos, furs, horses, wagons, and watches.  Depending on the quantity the owner paid the tax.  In Georgia, the property tax was conducted in conjunction with the Poll Tax, so men between 18 and 60 paid the poll tax, if they owned real property (land) they had to list ALL property then owned in Georgia and which county it was in and the number of acres based on that it was used for such as pine for timber, grazing for livestock, or farming.  Here we often see where someone else is acting as an agent because the owner did not actually live there but was out of state, or was away for some reason and worth delving into.  Also, I could see where some of my family members were acting as administrators on the estate of their children who died and the probate case was still open.

Based on age, we can see where a male property owner is not yet 21 and pays on the property but not the toll, and once turning 21 we can determine the approximate age.  Same on the other end where they crossed the age limit whereby they stop paying taxes.  This is still true today in many places.  Property Tax records are public records and anyone can look up someone else’s property tax records.  If your state, county, or city has age benefits, you can tell when someone ages out of paying things like education tax or gets a reduced property tax.

If your ancestor ran certain businesses which required a special license such as an inn or tavern they were most likely required to pay a tax and obtain a license.  Additionally, if they ran a business, check with archives, historical societies, nearby universities, and libraries to see if perhaps they have copies of the company’s ledger listing customers, employees, and taxes collected.

I have probably said this before but in all records, taxes included, always check the last couple of pages to see if your missing ancestor was added as an addendum.



Blog 2022 04 10 2022 Navigating the 1950 U. S. Census before the indexing is complete

Shall I start with the obvious, Good Luck?

Depending on where your person or family of interest was living in 1950 will determine just how difficult it might be.  For instance, I wanted to see if my father was still living at on, on the farm, or if he had already joined his older brother in Chicago, IL.  That rural part of the town of Surrency, outside the city, in Appling County, Georgia was 25 pages and it was really easy to go page by page.

What I discovered was that he was not listed as residing there; plus, his oldest brother was living back at the family farm with his wife and two young children.  Something I did not know.  My uncle’s youngest child was two on the 1950 U. S. Census is a cousin I am in contact with and asked her if she knew this and she replied she did because she was born there.

I did notice that the enumerators of 1950 were not any better than others in US history at getting facts correct.  Since my uncle, born in 1923, and a veteran of WWII had the WWII annotation crossed out and changed to reflect his served in WWI, five years before he was born.

But what about a more metropolitan area? 

Let’s take a look at Macon, Bibb County, Georgia.  I was looking up the family of a client.  However, I need the enumeration area.  To do this, I need to know where they lived.  I have their address according to the 1950 city directory.

Steve Morse has a website that helps with this (most people only think of his website for immigration) and it is:

I can plug in the state, County, City, and then address and it will bring back the enumeration district or districts to search.  Then it is back to going page by page.  It took me a few minutes because the city directory method of displaying the address in 1950 was confusing since the city had just renumbered most of the addresses and renamed many streets.  But, I eventually found what I was looking for.

What if you do not have an address?

That will depend on how unique the name is that you are researching.  I just took a chance looking for my father in Chicago and found him on the third option, out of 233 possibilities.  My father’s name was Odis Thomas and I searched for Odis.  He is right where I expected to find him, with his brother Ralph, and Ralph’s wife, Dolly.  Ralph’s name was on a line that was ‘randomly’ selected for additional questions.  Here, the enumerator, probably due to lack of knowledge, states he completed 12 years of schooling which is not technically correct.  The enumerator probably asked Ralph if he completed High School and Ralph replied in the affirmative.  However, Georgia used to graduate kids after the 11th grade and did not add the 12th grade until 1950.  All of my Thomas grandparent’s kids graduated before 1950.

However, another person in Chicago I am looking for, his surname should be rather unique but it brings back 173 and that one may take some time.  I was not necessarily going to go through all 233 pages to look for my dad for this blog, it just so happens that it came up, on the third one.


Blog 2022 01 30 2022 Mortality Schedules

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.

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, ( 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, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication M704, roll 508.

[iii] 1860 U. S. Census, Pierce County, Georgia, Mortality Schedule, page 551 (inked), ), image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication T 655, roll 8.

[iv] 1870 U. S. Census, Clark County, Indiana, Mortality Schedule, page 136, image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.

[v] 1880 U. S. Census, Cook County, Illionois, Mortality Schedule, Supervisor’s District 1, Enumerator’s District 123, page 1 (inked), image, ( accessed 8 March 2022), citing NARA publication, T655.