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AfriGeneas Slave Research Forum Archive

Slave Census Schedules with Names!
In Response To: NC Rare Slave List Uncovered ()

Sharon, thank you for sharing this news report!

Over the years, researchers have found a few 1850 or 1860 census schedules from several counties that name the slaves. I am currently trying to compile a list of those counties, and on which copy of the census these names appear (the microfilmed census at the national Archives, or a local copy at state or county level). I would be most thankful for anyone who may have come across one of these to drop me an email. Already on my list are 1850 Scott County, Tennessee, and 1860 Boyd County, Kentucky.

The February discovery of a copy in NC State Archives of Camden County’s 1860 census that records the names of the slaves offers a rare opportunity to examine how at least one census-taker worked. Contrary to fanciful news reports, I doubt that the Camden census schedule is the product of a “renegade census taker;” neither was the census-taker (as suggested in a Feb 25 Virginia Pilot story) motivated by sentimentality as “somebody with a heart [who] wanted to give names to these people.”

The Marshall of each federal district was charged with collecting the census, and appointed assistant marshals for each subdivision – for most southern states, these subdivisions were the counties. The instructions directed that an assistant marshall make three copies of each census schedule as follows: “As soon as you have made one fair copy of all your returns and carefully compared it with the original, you will forward it without any delay to the Marshal of your district. When you have completed a second copy you will transmit that also to the Marshal, and you will file the original with the clerk of the county or parish, and forward his receipt therefor to the Marshal.”

The Marshall was to send one of these “fair copies” of each census return to the Secretary of State for that state, and the other copy to Washington to be tabulated. Compensation for the census-taker (a.k.a. assistant marshall) depended in large part in accurately following directions, and these directions explicitly required him to replace slaves’ names with numbers; however, compensation was based on the copy sent to Washington.

I have not yet examined the Camden census at the NC archives in Raleigh, but it is obviously not the “fair copy” forwarded to Washington. The fact that it is reportedly recorded on sheets of Schedule 1, Free Inhabitants, suggests that it is a rough draft composed on spare sheets of that schedule. Congressional debates on the census schedules show that at least one senator (Underwood of Kentucky) expected census-takers would consider each slave by name, then convert the names to numbers by a later “calculation.” It is very possible that the Camden census at Raleigh is the rough draft, later copied smooth for transmission to Washington. It is most likely to be the copy deposited with the local courthouse, as required under the census act, because that was supposed to be the “original” from which the other two “fair copies” would have been made.

In their 1986 book, Farm Tenancy and the Census in Antebellum Georgia, Frederick Bode and Donald Ginter urged that “major southern data sources require a more extended and detailed critique” – and proposed such a critique for Schedule 2, Slave Inhabitants (pp. 9, and 258, n.42). Taking up this challenge, I have begun a series of posts on this forum which I hope will prompt a closer study and discussion of the 1850 and 1860 Schedule 2, census of Slave Inhabitants. I am presently up to part 4 of 9 in that series.

Part One is at the link below:;read=5380

Messages In This Thread

NC Rare Slave List Uncovered
Slave Census Schedules with Names!
Re: Slave Census Schedules with Names!

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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