Census Instructions 1870

2 posts / 0 new
Last post
agilchrest's picture
Census Instructions 1870

I am looking at a 1870 census record for Daniel Dorris in New York City.


In column 19 there is a mark. Column 19 is Male Citizens of US of 21 years of age and upwards. There are several different marks in this column, a slash, what looks like a y and what looks like an X. There is a total number of marks in the column listed at the bottom. 8 marks total. Also in the tabulation on the bottom is the number 8 for no. of males, foreign born.

The instructions for the 1870 census states:  "The inquiries in columns numbered 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 20 are of such a nature that these columns only require to be filled when the answer to the inquiry is "Yes." If the person being enumerated had a father or mother of foreign birth; if he or she attended school during the year; if he or she cannot read or cannot write; if he is a citizen of the United States above the age of 21, and if, being such citizen, his right to vote is denied or abridged on other grounds than participation in rebellion or crime, then an affirmative mark, thus, (/), will be drawn in each of the above columns opposite the name."

If I understand the column label and the instructions then Daniel was probably naturalized and had the right to vote. What troubles me is the differences in the marks in the column.

Thank you,

Ann Gilchrest

EE's picture


Marks such as these two (i.e., the small backward slashes added to the larger forward slashes and the dots placed under the forward slashes ) are typically "tally marks" added by Census Bureau officials after the marshals submit the returns.

In this case, if we run spot checks throughout the New York City returns, we find these particular tally marks used throughout most wards. If we run spot checks in other counties that are today part of New York City (Kings, Queens, Richmond, and the Bronx), we don't find those marks. Elsewhere in New York state, we don't find those marks. Spotchecks in other states do not show those marks, either. This tells us that Census Bureau was making some special effort on the New York City returns. Looking at a list of microfilmed returns for the city, we see another anomaly: there are two enumerations for all wards and all original districts (although there are extra districts on the second enumeration).

The explanation for these added tally marks stems from the fact that there are two enumerations.  The accuracy of the 1870 census was bitterly disputed by many jurisdictions who felt their population had been undercounted. Recounts were made in three cities: New York City, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. For the NYC recount, you may be interested in Charles Sullivan, "The 1870 Federal Census for New York City," Nancy E. Lutz, The Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page (http://www.bklyn-genealogy-info.com/Census/1870/1870.CS.NYC.html : posted 13 July 2001).


The Editor