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Census Year

1850 Census Overview

The 1850 Census significantly changed how census data was collected. The 1850 Census was the first census year to include a separate questionnaire for slaves. In addition, every free person was included individually whereas earlier census records only listed the head of the household. Newly added states of Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas, and California were also included in the 1850 Census records.

1850 census takers also collected "social statistics" on census forms including information on taxes, schools, crime, wages, value of the estate, etc. and data on mortality.

Native Indians who lived on reservations or unsettled land were not included in the census data. To find your Native American ancestors living during this decade, you can search our Native American newspaper archives which also includes tribal newspapers.

1850 Federal Census Facts

  • Population: 23,191,876 — a 35.9% increase from the 1840 Census
  • Census Date: June 1, 1850
  • Census Date Released: 1922
  • Number of States Participating: 31
  • U.S. Territories Participating: Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah
  • Data Lost: None

1850 Census Questions Asked

  • Number of family members
  • Name, age, and sex
  • Color (race)
  • Profession, occupation, or trade
  • Value of person’s real estate and personal estate
  • Place of birth
  • If the person had been married or attended school within the last year
  • If the person was over 20 years of age and if he could not read or write
  • If the person was deaf, dumb, blind, or idiotic
The slave questionnaire asked:
  • Name of owner
  • Number of slave (slaves were not assigned names & numbers restarted with each new owner)
  • Age, sex, color (black or mulatto)
  • Number of uncaught escaped slaves in the past year
  • Number of slaves freed in the past year

Notable Events Between 1840-1850:

The decade between 1840-1850 saw dramatic changes in population migration and immigration compared to previous years.

  • In May of 1840, the first wagon train to California departed from Missouri on the Oregon Trail.
  • The 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty formally designates the border separating the U.S. and Canada.
  • The Irish Potato Famine of 1845 leads to an influx of immigrants to the U.S.
  • In 1948 Gold was discovered in California & led to a sudden migration of 80,000 settlers to California.
  • In 1849 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War, and the U.S. received 500,000 square miles of territory.

Search the 1850 Census to learn where your ancestors lived and worked. Then use our library of newspaper archives to discover their trials and tribulations. With GenealogyBank you'll find more than just a surname and date. You find the stories of your ancestors. Your family history is waiting to be discovered.