I was recently looking at an agricultural census schedule. For those not familiar with the Agricultural “Ag” censuses, they were taken in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. If your ancestor listed “Farmer” as his occupation, you definitely want to look for the “matching” agricultural census which will tell you about livestock he owned, acres planted, how many bushels of this or pounds of that he grew and more. It is a great snapshot into your ancestor’s life as a farmer. Take the opportunity to compare your ancestor to his neighbors – calculate things like yield per acre, etc. to see how productive he might have been in relation to his fellow farmers. And look at him over time – if you can find him in 1860 and 1870, does he have more land? Does he have more cows? Did he drop that unproductive rye crop and plant more acres in wheat?
Ancestry has filmed these agricultural censuses as well as some other “non-population” schedules.
The way the 1850 schedules are arranged, the farmers’ names are written down the left side of the page and boxes were filled in for each column as they applied. There are 19 columns on the front side of the page. After the enumerator asked Farmer John all the details on the front side, he’d flip the page over and ask another 27 columns (up to column 46). Lots and lots of data!
The schedules were microfilmed and the images are available on Ancestry. But there is a little bit of a problem. Ancestry has arranged them by State, then county, then township, in alphabetical order of town. Easy, right? Well… if your ancestor is has is name on the last page of the town, you can’t “flip the page” to get to the
back side of Farmer John’s page. How are you going to know how many pounds of maple sugar or bushels of peas he produced????
I was looking at Franklin Township, Delaware County, New York. “My” guy, “Enas B. Tisher” is on line 1 of image 10. As you can see, that is image 10 of 10. Where’s the back side of his page?!! I can’t type 11 in the box at the bottom- that won’t work.
If I click on the filmstrip icon next to the 10 I see the start of another township, Hamden, which apparently has 5 images. Maybe that will be it…
But nooooooo. Look in the upper right hand corner of Enas Tisher’s page. In (sloppy) black marker it says 313. Hamden’s first page has the number 259. So… somebody somewhere had a stack of these agricultural enumerations and started numbering the pages in numerical order (I mean really, how else would you number pages?!) But Ancestry, thought these should really be in alphabetical order, by town name.
So how did I finally find Mr. Tisher’s back page? I looked at the filmstrip, scrolled forward or backward to the first image for every town, and when I finally got to the town of Masonville, I could see, right there in that same old black marker, “315.” The numbers on the left side of the page? Yep, that’s exactly the data I was seeking for my old buddy Enas. 3 Bushels of peas, and 400 lbs of maple sugar (I think…)
Don’t take my word for it, compare the data numbers on the left side of the image with those on Enas Tisher’s page on image 10 in Fisher. The same. But the numbers on image 1 of Masonville, “black marker” page 315, were written in someone else’s handwriting.
Lesson learned, those “flip side” of the pages are somewhere. You just need to be a little creative to find them.
11/29/2018 01:10:49 pm
Thanks for this information. When you wrote of comparing crops and farm production of farmers, how do we know what was normal? For all we know, maybe the farmer's neighbors all had below-normal production, or above-normal production . . .
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Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.