The 1860 census was the 8th Census of the United States. The data obtained in this census was almost identical to the 1850 census, so no major improvement over that one. This census included the names of all free whites and free colored only. Unfortunately slaves were not listed by name, but were included on a separate schedule by age and sex only.
One small disadvantage with the 1860 census (just like 1850) is that no relationship was stated between the people in the household. Suppose you have a John Smith, age 36, Mary Smith, 35, John Smith Jr, 7, Cynthia Smith, 5 and Charles Smith, age 1. You can probably safely assume that John and Mary were husband and wife and that John Jr, Cynthia and Charles were their children, however, this may not be the case at all. It could be that John and Mary are brother and sister, and that the children are their orphaned nephews and nieces, or perhaps children of Mary's born out of wedlock. There are many possibilities. As with earlier census records it helps to have additional evidence from other sources.
The 1860 census was taken state by state, and county by county, and in some cases the counties were further divided by districts (such as townships, etc.). In 1860, the records were left in the original order the census taker visited each household, which is very useful to determine who a persons neighbors were. If you see three Smith families listed side by side, you can reasonably assume they are somehow related. Of course their are always cases where they appear to be "side by side", but were not close together at all, depending on how the census taker visited houses.
You can determine an approximate birth year for a person listed in the 1860 census. The census was taken as of 1 June 1860, so you can narrow a persons approximate birth down to within two calendar years. If they were listed as age 25 in 1860, they were either born in mid to late 1834, or early to mid 1835 (depending on when their birth date was). It should be mentioned that the ages given in 1860 and later census records are not always correct. This all depends on who gave the census taker the information.
The 1860 Census was only a slight improvement over the 1850 census. Each free person was listed by household including name, ages and other information for each person. I will explain what each column represents in detail below.
The census was as of 1 Jun 1860, meaning all data collected (even if collected months after that date) was supposed to reflect the families condition on 1 Jun 1860, meaning all ages were to be listed how they were back on June 1st, even if it was three months later when the census taker asked. It isn't know if the census taker adhered to this rule or not, but that is what they were supposed to do.
The "page number" that I use on my published census abstracts are normally the stamped page number. Each "page" of the 1860 census was actually two pages. The second page had no stamped number, and is usually designated by the page number of the previous page plus the letter "B", for example, page 75 and 75B. Some census records also had a handwritten page number at the top of each page. It varies from census to census how the numbering was done.
The 1860 census had a header at the top of each page with information on the county, the district, the date and other information. Here is an example (the underlined sections are blanks filled in by the census taker, the rest is pre-printed on the form):
- Page No. 1
- SCHEDULE I. -- Free Inhabitants in Tennessee Valley in the County of Macon State
- of North Carolina_ enumerated by me, on the 5th day of June_ 1860. John Smith Ass't Marshal. 73
- Post Office Huntington
- Page No.: This is the hand written page number. Typically each county begins with "1" and works it way up as far as it goes. This is not the same as the stamped page number on the right of every other page.
- Free Inhabitants in ___: Anything listed here indicates Township or District or town. This is often left blank if a county is not subdivided in anyway.
- County of ___: This is the County name.
- State of ___: This is the State name.
- Enumerated by me on the __ day of ___, 1860: This is the date the census taker actually visited the households listed on this page. You can see that this date can be months after "1 June 1860" when the census was "as of".
- ___ Ass't Marshal. This is the name of the man or men who took the census.
- Page Number. After the Assistant Marshall's name is the stamped page number (on alternating pages).
- Post Office. The Post Office where the people listed got their mail. This is helpful in narrowing down the region a person lived.
The columns for the 1860 census follows:
- Dwelling-houses numbered in the order of visitation. This is what I refer to as the Household number. Each house was numbered consecutively. If more than one family group lived in the same house, the family number would be different, but the household number would be the same.
- Families numbered in the order of visitation. This is what I refer to as the Family Number. Each family was numbered consecutively. If more than one family group lived in the same house, each family would have a different family number (this isn't always true), but the household number would be the same.
- The Name of every Person whose usual place of abode on the first day of June, 1860 was in this family. This is the name of each individual living in this house or family. The family members are usually listed in this order: Husband, wife, all children by age, parents, brothers, sisters, etc. This isn't a rule, just a general way you find it. Some Census takers listed all males first, then all females. No relationships are stated.
- Age. The age in years of each person as of June 1, 1860.
- Sex. Male or Female.
- Color. (White, black, or mulatto.). The race of each person. The categories were very limiting, as not all people fit into these three categories. "Mulatto" was used for those "Free Colored" people who didn't quite fit the census takers definition of black or white. See my Race Codes pages for more on this subject. If the person was white, this column was to be left blank.
- Profession, Occupation, or Trade of each Male Person over 15 years of age. Self explanatory. Sometimes the census taker would write in something here other than occupation, such as "widow" or "in prison", etc.
- Value of Real Estate. The value in dollars of the land owned by each household member.
- Value of Personal Estate. The value in dollars of the personal property owned by each household member.
- Place of Birth, Naming the State, Territory, or Country. Place of birth of each person, usually just the state, but some census takers helpfully included the county or birth.
- Married within the year. This column would be marked if the person had married within the past year. (i.e. from June 1st 1859 to June 1st 1860).
- Attended School within the year. This column would be marked if the person had been in school in the past year (i.e. from June 1st 1859 to June 1st 1860).
- Persons over 20 y'rs of age who cannot read & write. This column would be marked if the person was illiterate (very common back then).
- Whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict.
- * On some of my own published transcribed census
records I have added a column of my own at the end and titled it "Approximate
Year of Birth". This I calculated by taking their age and subtracting it
from 1860 for the latest year they were born, and taking their age and
subtracting it from 1859 for the earliest year they were born. For example,
someone age 25 on this census was born either in mid to late 1834 or early to
mid 1835 so 1834/1835 is how this would be listed in my column. This is not a
part of the original census, but included on my own transcripts to show
approximately when someone was born.