Special Federal Census Schedules For New York State
Most researchers are familiar with using the "Population Schedules" of federal censuses from 1850 - 1880 - these records are some of the most widely used of all genealogical sources.
But have you explored the "Special Schedules" of the 1850-1880 censuses? Many researchers overlook these collections even though they contain unique information of genealogical and historical value.
The Special Schedules fall into four categories:
- Industrial or Manufacturing
- Social Statistics
This article will provide a brief overview of these Special Schedules and what one can learn from them. The original copies of these schedules for New York State are held by the State Library in Albany.
Fully searchable copies of all of them are also available to subscribers (including library subscribers) of Ancestry.com - in fact, New York State residents may be able to gain free access to this and other New York databases on Ancestry.com.
The Mortality Schedules are supposed to list everyone who died during the twelve months prior to the census date (e.g., 1 June 1849 through 31 May 1850, 1 June 1859 through 31 May 1860, etc.).
In addition to the usual census data, cause of death is listed. These deceased persons are not included in the Population Schedules of the same census, but in 1870 and 1880 each death is keyed to a family in those schedules.
Since few death records exist for these years for most of the State (outside of New York City), the Mortality Schedules can be very important from a genealogical standpoint.
The Agricultural Schedules can provide interesting detail for a family history.
For a head of household just listed as a farmer in the Population Schedules, the Agricultural Schedule for the same town or district will give valuable data about the farm, such as size and value of the property, number of farmhands employed, numbers of different kinds of livestock, and production of certain crops. The schedule for 1880 is particularly detailed.
If a family lived on the same property at more than once census, the Agricultural Schedules will illustrate the growth (or decline) of their farm.
The name Industrial Schedules may conjure up images of large factories, but in fact most of the entries are for very small businesses, often for a self-employed man such as a carpenter or blacksmith. To be listed, however, the business did have to generate a minimum income, so that not all are recorded.
If the business was not operated at home it may not be found in the same town or district where the owner appears on the Population Schedules; a city directory might be used to determine the business address.
The Industrial Schedule will indicate the type of business, capital invested, number of persons employed and their wages, raw materials used and their cost, and the volume and value of end products. (Note: the 1870 Industrial Schedules are missing for Albany through Erie.)
For the 1850-70 censuses there are schedules called Social Statistics, which consist of single summary sheets for each town (or for each county in 1870), giving figures for total assessed value of property, taxes collected, schools and students, libraries, churches (by denomination), paupers, crime, and wages, plus the names of newspapers serving the area.
There are no personal names in these schedules, but the statistics will give the genealogist a better picture of the community in which a family lived, and the information on newspapers and churches can be used as leads for further research. (Note: the 1860 schedules are missing for several counties.)
Additional Special Schedules
For 1880, there are the Supplemental Schedules for the Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes. Here will be found names and other data of persons classified (in the words used at that time in history) as insane, idiots, deaf-mutes, blind, homeless children, prisoners, and indigents in institutions or boarded in private houses. When the Population Schedules of a town or district turn up persons of interest to the researcher, these supplemental schedules for the same area should definitely be checked. (For more on these schedules see Ruth L. Hatten, "The 'Forgotten' Census of 1880," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 80 [March 1992]: 57-70.)
Prior to 1850 there was one manufacturing or industrial schedule, compiled in 1820. For New York, this schedule describes a wide variety of manufacturing establishments in the state, 1600 in all, with information that would enhance any family history. For a description and sample excerpts see the article “The 1820 U.S. Census of Manufactures,” The NYG&B Newsletter 10:41 (Summer 1999). This schedule is on NARA microfilm M279, the New York portion of which is available at the New York Public Library, microfilm *ZI-813. The microfilm includes an index.
Various special schedules were used in censuses taken after 1880, but with one exception they were destroyed once statistics had been culled from them. The exception is the 1890 Veterans Schedules, the New York State portion of which is also available through Ancestry.com. For every veteran or veteran's widow from the Civil War who was living in 1890, there is important genealogical and biographical information, made even more valuable by the loss of the 1890 Population Schedules. NYG&B also has an index to the names in these schedules.
Finally, researchers should remember that the New York State Censuses of 1855-75 also have special schedules similar to those described above.
For some additional information on both Federal and State special schedules for New York, see Marilyn Douglas and Melinda Yates, New York State Census Records 1790-1925, Bibliography Bulletin 88 (Albany: State Education Dept., 1981), especially pp. 37,47,50-51.
Accessing Special Census Schedules
At Ancestry.com, a regular Search should turn up any mention of an individual in the Special Schedules. There is a consolidated collection titled U.S. Census Non-Population Schedules, New York, 1850-1880.
As this collection is included in the Ancestry New York web page, New York residents may be able to gain free access to search these collections without becoming a paid subscriber. Read more about activating your access at the NY State Archives page How to Use Ancestry.com New York.
by Harry Macy Jr., FASG, FGBS
Originally published in The NYG&B Newsletter, Spring 1993
Updated June 2011 & February 2019
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