1800 Federal Census of the Northwest Territory on Ancestry? April Fools!

Thanks to Mary Milne Jamba for asking this great question!

Mary was concerned about her citation to an 1800 census image for the Northwest Territory found in Ancestry.com’s “1800 United States Federal Census” database. Ancestry’s source information for this database says:

“Ancestry.com. 1800 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: Second Census of the United States, 1800. (NARA microfilm publication M32 [emphasis added], 52 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C”1

However, the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio does not appear anywhere in NARA’s listing of those 52 rolls.2 It’s not part of that microfilm publication.

If it’s not part of the cited source, where did it come from? It actually comes from a different NARA microfilm publication, “Second census of the United States, 1800, population schedules, Washington County. Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; and population census, 1803, Washington County, Ohio (M1804) [emphasis added]”3

Ancestry has merged this record with the M32 publication. They do mention in the record description, “Lost schedules include those for Georgia, Indiana Territory, Kentucky, Mississippi Territory, New Jersey, Northwest Territory [emphasis added], Virginia, Tennessee, and Alexandria County, District of Columbia. Some of the schedules for these states have been re-created using tax lists and other records. [emphasis added]”4

NARA added to the confusion by naming the M1804 publication something that it is not– a federal census. Nor is it a population schedule.

So how did it end up at NARA?

According to a description published by the Washington County chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, the film was compiled by Claire Prechtel-Kluskens of the National Archives and Records Administration in 1994.5 Quoting the introductory matter on the microfilm, the page states:

“In 1962, all of the schedules reproduced on this roll of microfilm were in the Campus Martius Museum, Marietta, Ohio.  That year they were loaned to the National Archives for microfilming through the courtesy of the Museum, the Ohio Historical Society, and the Commissioners of Washington County, Ohio.  At that time, the negative microfilm was turned over to the Marietta College Library, while the positive was placed in the Microfilm Reading Room of the National Archives, Washington, DC.”6

Now that we know how it got there, WHAT IS IT? Below is a sample image from this collection (click for full-size):

1800

Ancestry identifies the source of this image as “Year: 1800; Census Place: Newtown, Washington, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; Roll: 1,” and cites publication M32 as the original source. But this isn’t Roll 1 of M32; it’s Roll 1 of M1804. For original image, see: http://tinyurl.com/m8935gt

 

The answer to that lies in statutes, specifically, statutes of the Northwest Territories.

Chapter 102 of the Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory Adopted or Enacted From 1788 to 1833 Inclusive details:
“An act to ascertain the number of free male inhabitant of the age of twenty one in the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio and to regulate the of representatives for the same.”7

Passed in 1799, the statute provides that:

“The enumeration shall commence on the first Tuesday of May next [1800], and on the first Tuesday of May every second year afterwards and shall be closed within thirty days after the commencement thereof. The several constables shall within forty days after the commencement of the enumeration, return to the clerk of the peace of their respective counties, accurate returns of all free male inhabitants of twenty one years of age within the townships allotted to them respectively, which returns shall be made in a schedule distinguishing the several families in which may be found a free male inhabitant of the age of twenty one years, by the name of their respective master, mistress, or other principal person therein, in manner following, to wit:
‘The number of free male inhabitants of the age of twenty one years within my township of _________ consists of _______ as appears in a schedule hereunto annexed. Subscribed by me this ____day of ________ AB constable.”8

The statute also provides the form of the schedule, worded almost exactly as you see in the image above:9

form

So the images on Ancestry are actually a territorial census, not a federal population schedule, taken to establish the number of eligible voters for representation purposes. While it’s obviously a valuable record set, it’s not quite the record set that the source information indicates. It’s a shame that this census AND the federal census for Washington County aren’t BOTH still around.

Nevertheless, learning as much as we can about  why a record was created and the laws that governed its form and function help us extract as much information as we possibly can. If nothing else, it makes for great conversation-starters at parties…assuming it’s a genealogical party.

The next question: Did NARA ever return the originals they were “lent” in 1962, and if so, to whom?

  1. Ancestry.com, “1800 United States Federal Census,”  Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7590: accessed 1 Apr 2014),  “Source Information.” []
  2. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, “1790-1890 Federal Population Censuses – Part 2,” National Archives (http://www.archives.gov/research/census/publications-microfilm-catalogs-census/1790-1890/part-02.html). []
  3. See FamilySearch Catalog entry– https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/720623?availability=Family%20History%20Library. []
  4. Ancestry.com, “1800 United States Federal Census,” “About 1800 United States Federal Census.” []
  5. Washington County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, “Washington County, Ohio, census description 1800 and 1803,” Washington County Chapter Ohio Genealogical Society (http://www.washogs.org/18001803.html: accessed 1 Apr 2014) []
  6. ibid. []
  7. Salmon P. Chase, The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory, Adopted or Enacted From 1788 to 1833 Inclusive: Together with the Ordinance of 1787; the Constitutions of Ohio and of the United States, and Various Public Instruments and Acts of Congress, Illustrated by a Preliminary Sketch of the History of Ohio; Numerous References and Notes and Copious Indexes (Cincinnati: Corey & Fairbank, 1833), 239; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=zpk4AAAAIAAJ&vq=census&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false: accessed 1 Apr 2014). []
  8. ibid. at 240. []
  9. ibid. []
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