The 1870 census was the 9th Census of the United States. The data obtained in this census was almost identical to the 1860 census, but contained a couple of useful improvement over that one. This census is of major importance to African-American researchers, for it is the first federal census taken since slavery was abolished in the 1860's. For many researchers, the most notable improvement is the inclusion of the questions about whether the persons father and mother were foreign born or not. This was just a yes/no question, but it can be helpful. Another useful improvement was a column for the month of birth for those born within the census year, so any child under 1 year old, should be listed by his age in the age column (for example, 3/12), and in the Month born column, the month of his birth should be given.
One disadvantage with the 1870 census (just like 1860) is that no relationship was stated between the people in the household. Suppose you have a John Winfrey, age 36, Mary Winfrey, 35, John Winfrey Jr, 7, Cynthia Winfrey, 5 and Charles Winfrey, 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 1870 census was taken state by state, and county by county, and township by township. In 1870, 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 1870 census. The census was taken as of 1 June 1870, so you can narrow a persons approximate birth down to within two calendar years. If they were listed as age 25 in 1870, they were either born in mid to late 1844, or early to mid 1845 (depending on when their birth date was). It should be mentioned that the ages given in 1870 and later census records are not always correct. This all depends on who gave the census taker the information.
The 1870 Census was only a slight improvement over the 1860 census. Each 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 1870, meaning all data collected (even if collected months after that date) was supposed to reflect the families condition on 1 Jun 1870, 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 actual date he visited the households was included at the top of each page, so you can use that to determine whether the data was as of 1 June or a later date.
The "page number" that I use on my published census abstracts are normally the stamped page number. Each "page" of the 1870 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 1870 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. -- Inhabitants in Beaverdam Township in the County of Cherokee State
- of North Carolina_ enumerated by me, on the 5th day of June_ 1870. 73
- Post Office Huntington John Smith Ass't Marshal.
- 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.
- Inhabitants in ___: Anything listed here indicates Township or District or town.
- County of ___: This is the County name.
- State of ___: This is the State name.
- Enumerated by me on the __ day of ___, 1870: 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 1870" 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 1870 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, 1870 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, 1870.
- Sex. Male or Female.
- Color. (White, Black, Mulatto, Chinese, Indian.). The race of each person. The categories were very limiting, as not all people fit into these four categories. "Mulatto" was used for those mixed race people who didn't quite fit the census takers definition of black or white. See my Race Codes pages for more on this subject. Chinese could conceivably include anyone of Asian origin, and Indian is self explanatory.
- Profession, Occupation, or Trade of each Person Male or Female. 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 or Territory of U.S.; or the Country, if foreign birth. Place of birth of each person, usually just the state or country.
- Parentage: Father if foreign birth. This block is checked, or marked in some way if the person's father was foreign born.
- Parentage: Mother if foreign birth. This block is checked, or marked in some way if the person's mother was foreign born.
- If born within the year, state month (Jan, Feb, etc.). For children under 1 year of age, their actual birth month was to be listed here. Since this only applied to those born in the "census year", any months of January through June would be for 1870, and any months listed as July through December would be for 1869. (Census year was June 1st 1869 through March 31, 1870).
- If married within the year, state month (Jan, Feb, etc.). This column would be marked with the month of marriage, if the person had married within the past year. (i.e. from June 1st 1869 to March 31, 1870). Since this only applied to those married in the "census year", any months of January through June would be for 1870, and any months listed as July through December would be for 1869.
- 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 1870).
- Education: cannot read. This column would be marked if the person was unable to read.
- Education: cannot write. This column would be marked if the person was unable to write.
- Whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic. Self explanatory.
- Constitutional Relations. Male citizens of U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards. This column would be marked if the person was a male US Citizen over age 21.
- Constitutional Relations. Male citizens of U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards whose right to vote is denied or abridged on other grounds than rebellion or other crime. This column would be marked if the person was a male US Citizen over age 21 who for some reason was denied voting privileges.