The 1880 census was the 10th Census of the United States. The data obtained in this census was almost identical to the 1870 census, but contained a couple of useful improvement over that one. For many researchers, the most notable improvement is the inclusion of the relationship of each person to the head of household. In previous census records you could make assumptions, but always ran the risk of assuming wrong. In 1880 the actual relationship is listed. Another useful improvement was a column for the birth place of the father and for the mother of each person. This provides additional research clues, though I've noted that this information is often incorrect and varies from person to person.
The 1880 census was taken state by state, and county by county, and township by township. In 1880, 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 Wright 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 1880 census. The census was taken as of 1 June 1880, so you can narrow a persons approximate birth down to within two calendar years. If they were listed as age 25 in 1880, they were either born in mid to late 1854, or early to mid 1855 (depending on when their birth date was). It should be mentioned that the ages given in 1880 and other census records are not always correct. This all depends on who gave the census taker the information.
The 1880 Census was a pretty good improvement over the 1870 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 1880, meaning all data collected (even if collected months after that date) was supposed to reflect the families condition on 1 Jun 1880, 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 1880 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 1880 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
- Supervisor's Dist. No 2
- Enumeration Dist No. 112 73
- SCHEDULE I. -- Inhabitants in Beaverdam Township in the County of Cherokee State
- of North Carolina_ enumerated by me, on the 5th day of June_ 1880.
- John Smith Enumerator.
- Note A - The census year begins June 1, 1879 and ends May 31 1880.
- Note B - All Persons will be included in the enumerations who were living on the 1st day of June 1880. No others will. Children born since June 1, 1880 will be omitted. Members of families who have died since June 1, 1880 will be included.
- Note C - Questions Nos 13, 14, 22 and 28 are not to be asked in respect to persons under 10 years of age
- 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 ___, 1880: 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 1880" when the census was "as of".
- ___ Enumerator. This is the name of the man or men who took the census.
- Page Number. In the upper right is a stamped page number (on alternating pages).
The columns for the 1880 census follows:
Name of Street. If within a City or Town, the street name is given.
House Number. If within a City or Town, the house number is given.
- 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 each Person whose place of abode on 1st day of June, 1880 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.
- Color. White, W, Black, B, Mulatto, Mu, Chinese, C, Indian, I.). The race of each person. The categories were very limiting, as not all people fit into these five 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 means Native American.
- Sex. Male or Female.
- Age. The age in years of each person as of June 1, 1880. If under 1, it is given in fractions of 12, as in 4/12, meaning 4 months.
- If born within the census year, give the month. For all those children under 1 year old, their birth month will be listed here.
- Relationship of each person to the head of household, whether wife, son, daughter, hired, boarder, or other. This column gives the relationship of each person to the primary person (head of household). You will see Wife, Son, Daughter, Grandson, Granddaughter, Niece, Nephew, etc. If a person isn't related, it will either say None, or Hired, or Servant, or something like that. Sometimes it is left blank for those not related.
- Single. If the person is single (unmarried), this column is checked.
- Married. If the person is married, this column is checked.
- Widowed. Divorced, D. If the person is widowed, this column is checked. If divorced, a D is written in.
- Married during census year. If the person was married in the census year (June 1, 1879 through May 31, 1880), then this column is checked.
- 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.
- Number of months this person has been unemployed during the census year. If this is applicable, the number of months are entered in this column.
- Disability. Is the person (on the day of enumerator's visit) is sick or temporarily disabled so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties? If so, what is the sickness or disability?. You will see various sicknesses listed in this column.
- Blind. If the person is blind, this column will be checked.
- Deaf and Dumb. If the person is deaf and dumb, this column will be checked.
- Idiotic. If the person is idiotic, this column will be checked. This usually refers to permanent mental incapacity.
- Insane. If the person is Insane, this column will be checked.
- Maimed, Crippled, Bedridden or otherwise disabled. If any of these apply, this column is checked.
- Education. Attended School within the year. This column would be marked if the person had been in school in the census year (i.e. from June 1st 1879 to May 31, 1880).
- 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.
- 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, though some census takers included the county of birth as well.
- Place of Birth of the Father of this person. Place of birth of each person's father, usually just the state or country, though some census takers included the county of birth as well.
- Place of Birth of the Mother of this person. Place of birth of each person's mother, usually just the state or country, though some census takers included the county of birth as well.
- * 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 1880 for the latest year they could have been born in, and taking their age and subtracting it from 1879 for the earliest year they were born. For example, someone age 25 on this census was born either in mid to late 1854 or early to mid 1855 so 1854/1855 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 based on their age given on the census.