Social Statistics Census Schedules: Another View into Ancestral Context

by George G. Morgan

The United States federal censuses date back to 1790, having been authorized by ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Over the decades, the formats of each census have changed, the volume of information requested grew, and the number and type of census schedule forms changed.

In 1850, 1860, and 1870, the Social Statistics schedule was used to obtain detailed information about social conditions in a county or area. I spent part of last Saturday morning examining microfilm of the 1860 Social Statistics schedules for Virginia. As I began writing this article, I was studying the contents of the “Eastern District, in the County of Campbell of Virginia for the year ending June 1, 1860.” Here are the categories of columns and the types of information I discovered.

Real Estate Value
Valuation of Real Estate (#1,361,591) and Personal Estate ($493,066), How Valued (Assessment Commission), and True Valuation ($2,022,322)

Seasons & Crops
What crops are short? To what extent? Usual average crop? In the Eastern District of Calhoun County, wheat was at one-third of its annual yield and corn was at one-sixth its annual yield. (In another county, the enumerator made the notation, “The short crops was [sic] caused by an uncommon frost on the 5th of June, 1859.” (What effect would that have had on families and the economy in 1859-60?)

Annual Taxes
The name or type of each tax was listed, as well as the amount of tax in each category, and how it was paid.

Colleges, Academies, and Schools
Each category of educational institution was counted together, such as eight common [public] schools, etc. The total number of teachers in eight schools in this district was eight, and there were 160 pupils. The schedule asked how much funding was received from annual endowments, raised by taxation, received from public funds, or raised from other sources. The district of Calhoun County contributed $550 in public funds ($3.44 per student, including teachers’ salaries).

Libraries were listed by category, such as lending, law, medical, school, academic, and other, and the number of volumes was included. (This district had no libraries.)

Newspapers and Periodicals
In this category, the name of the publication, its character, frequency of publication, and circulation were recorded. (The district of Calhoun County had none.) This can tell you if there may have been publications you could seek out with news, announcements, obituaries, and other information.

The religion category listed the numbers of denominations, the numbers each could accommodate, and the value of church property. The district of Calhoun County showed values for each denomination’s statistics as follows:

  • Four Presbyterian–300 capacity–Value $3,000
  • Four Baptist–300 capacity–Value $3,000
  • Seven Methodist-Episcopal–300 capacity–Value $4,500
  • One Methodist-Protestant–200 capacity–Value $300
  • Two Episcopal–33 capacity–Value $1,500

This may provide you with leads on the religious affiliation of your ancestor, or help you narrow the number of churches in a denomination you might need to contact or research.

This category asked for the numbers of paupers supported in the past year (twenty-three native and zero foreign in Calhoun County) and how many supported on June 1st (twenty native and zero foreign). The annual cost of paupers was asked, and this district responded $45 each, which was generous in comparison to other areas. However, this may be attributed to food, housing, and medical treatment, depending on the area.

This section asked for the number of criminals, native and foreign, convicted within the year. It also asked for the number in prison as of June 1st. The district of Calhoun County did not maintain those statistics; they were elsewhere in the county.)

This economic data presents a picture of relative income of the working class, and is broken down into the following columns.

  • Average monthly wages to a farmhand with board? ($10)
  • Average to a day laborer with board ($0.50)
  • Average to a day laborer without board ($0.75)
  • Average day wages of a carpenter without board ($1.50)
  • Weekly wages to a female domestic with board ($1)
  • Price of board to laboring men per week ($1.75)

Locating Social Statistic Schedules
Social statistics schedules are available on microfilm for many states and territories. Check with your nearest LDS Family History Center to determine the availability for loan. The social statistics are normally organized by state, and then by county. Calhoun County, West Virginia, was on the Virginia roll. (West Virginia achieved statehood in 1863.) Therefore, be sure to look at formation dates and read the list of county names and locations on each film roll.

Happy Hunting!

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George G. Morgan is the best-selling author of The Official Guide to and How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy, both of which are available in the Ancestry Store. George and Drew Smith produce The Genealogy Guys Podcast each week ( George is also now teaching online genealogical workshops for Pharos Tutors and for the Continuing Education Division of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Visit his company’s website at ( to view his schedule of upcoming conference events.                 


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