1850 Census: Instructions to Marshals and Assistant Marshals

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To the Marshals:

Having appointed your assistants, and received a duplicate of the oath of office taken by each, pursuant to your instructions from this Department, of the 25th ultimo, you will proceed immediately to the further execution of your duty, as defined by the act. It is an important service, looked to in its results with much interest, and it is expected that you will use every effort to discharge it with promptness, efficiency, and exactness.

You will be immediately furnished, by express, with a portfolio for each of your assistants, and a sufficient number of blanks for each to commence work. The necessary additional blanks will be, in like manner, furnished you as soon as practicable.

As 160 names may be entered on one sheet of population returns, and as three copies altogether are required, it follows that, for 160 names, 3 sheets of schedule No. 1 will be needed; and that for a district of 20,000 free inhabitants, 375 sheets would be required. To the number, however, which is required, on an accurate calculation, an addition of 25 per cent should be made to cover possible errors, losses, etc.; so that for a population of 20,000 in any one district, there should be sent 470 sheets of population blanks, or schedule No. 1.

You will, accordingly, estimate the number of free persons in each assistant's district, and calculate thereon the number of this schedule (No. 1) which will be required; and you will apportion the other schedules according to the character of the district, whether it be agricultural, planting, mining, manufacturing, or mercantile. The portfolios and schedules are to be transmitted by you to your assistants by mail, pursuant to the seventeenth section of the act, unless a more eligible mode can be resorted to, without expense.

No. 2. Of schedule No. 2, Slave Inhabitants, the same number will be required for a slave population of 20,000 that would be required for the same number of free persons, as each sheet will include the same number of slaves that schedule No. 1 will of free population.

No. 3. No less than four copies of schedule No. 3 should be sent to each assistant, the fourth copy being sent to provide for loss or accident; and cases will not very frequently occur, except in populous districts, where more than that number will be necessary.

No. 4. Of the Agricultural schedule, you can be that only judge of what number will be requisite for a particular subdivision. Four sheets of schedule No. 4 should be sent for every eighty farm or plantation owners or occupiers.

No. 5. Of schedule No. 5, Statistics of Industry, there should be sent to the assistants about four sheets for each thirty manufacturers in his district; or forty, provided that manufactories are generally on a small scale. The statistics relating to four blacksmiths would not require more room than those relating to one woolen or cotton factory.

No. 6. Of schedule No. 6, Social Statistics, it is presumed that four sheets will be sufficient for most assistants, except in cities; and even there, unless that social statistics for a whole city should be taken by one individual.

If more than three copies of any schedule be required in a subdivision, six will be needed, as there must be three copies of every variety of statistics taken. You should use much care in the distribution of the blanks, in order that the supply be not unnecessarily exhausted.

Having furnished your assistants with the blanks and instructions, you will direct them to inform you when they commence the enumeration of the district assigned, and at least once in every two weeks, where mail facilities exist, they should be required to inform you of the progress made in the work. Failing to get such information from any assistant, it will be your duty to make inquiries concerning the district, so as to be assured that the assistant is at work, and to take those efficient steps which the law provides, to remedy any evil or inattention which may exist. You have, at any time, for cause sufficient, the power to cancel the appointment of an assistant, and to appoint another for the district; and it is your duty to do so whenever the public interest suffers from the neglect or incompetency of any assistant.

2. By the seventh section of the above act, it is made your duty "to keep an accurate record of the name, and area in square miles, of each subdivision, and of each assistant within your district." The object of this proviso is to determine the rate of payment to be made to the assistants. It is supposed and believed that in all States the areas of the different subdivisions may be pretty accurately known. It should be ascertained with complete exactness when the means exist for doing so. Where the reputed or estimated area is upon data not entirely reliable, this fact should be stated.

In the new States, where the county and town divisions are made by parallel lines, little difficulty can occur, and in the older States the gazetteers usually contain the required information; but, as they can not always be relied on, and counties have undergone change of character, the information should be obtained from the county surveyor, or clerk, or other reliable source; and you should require each assistant to furnish you with a certificate, under the hand of some reliable person, of the number of square miles in his district.

You should consider this as one of your first duties, so that, if possible, it may be made known to the assistant, soon after his appointment, the area of his district, and thus prevent the occurrence of any subsequent dispute. You should arrange a book, in some convenient method, by which you can easily refer to the description of the district, the number of square miles therein, and the name of each assistant, and the state of the work in each subdivision.

Postmasters should be notified concerning the provision in the seventeenth section of the act, which authorizes you and your assistants to frank all census packages and letters.

3. By the fifth section it is also made your duty " carefully to examine the returns of each assistant," to see whether the work has been executed in a lawful manner."

You should carefully examine the returns, to see that every part of the district embraced has been visited, and all the required information obtained, and the schedules filled up according to the instructions.

4. By the fifth section it is provided, that you shall transmit, forthwith, "one set of the returns to the census office." This set should be transmitted without any delay, and in convenient sized packages. You should keep an accurate account of returns forwarded to the census office, and of the date at which they were mailed; and if the receipt of them is not acknowledged in due course of mail, you should write and inquire whether they have been received. You are required, by the same section, to transmit the other copy thereof to the office of the secretary of the State, or Territory, to which your district belongs.

5. You and your assistants are requested to obtain, if practicable, and forward to the census office, copies of local printed reports of towns, counties, and States, relating to the expenditures, to schools, pauperism, crime, insanity, and other local matters which are required to be investigated by the schedules.

6. You should instruct your assistants, upon the receipt of the instructions and blanks, to commence immediately to discharge their duty, and use all exertions to have them performed during the earlier portion of the time allotted for the work, and not procrastinate, in the expectation of being able to prosecute the work during the latter portion of the period.

When such procrastination occurs, or other causes (which might by timely caution be avoided) operate to defeat the consummation of the duty, neither you nor your assistants will be entitled to compensation, but render yourselves liable to penalty.

To the Assistant Marshals:

1. The assistant marshal, having been duly commissioned, will be provided with a portfolio, to be furnished with the schedules, of sufficient size to contain several sheets of the same without folding, that may be easily opened, and used for writing on, if necessary; and he should furnish himself with ink, blotting paper, and pens. Strings should be attached to the portfolio, to prevent the loss of any of its contents.

2. He is to approach every family and individual from whom he solicits information with civil and conciliatory manners, and adapt himself, as far as practicable, to the circumstances of each, to secure confidence and good will, as a means of obtaining the desired information with accuracy and dispatch.

3. If any person, to whom application is made for information should refuse to give it, or should designedly give false information, the assistant should inform him of the responsibility he thereby incurs, and that he renders himself liable to a penalty, according to the fifteenth section of the act of Congress.

4. The act provides that "the assistant marshals shall make the enumeration by actual inquiry at every dwelling house, or by personal inquiry of the head of every family, and not otherwise." This requirement must be strictly observed.

5. As soon as the schedules are filled up, and the information in relation to each family is obtained according to the instructions, the assistant should read over, and exhibit to the parties from whom he received the same, the record of the information obtained, and correct or supply any error or omission. The object of this rule is to prevent mistakes, and secure accuracy.

6. Each assistant is to complete the enumeration with as little delay as possible, after commencing it, and should inform the marshal, at least once in two weeks, of the progress he is making in his district.

7. On each page of the population and agricultural schedules is to be inserted the date when such page was commenced, although it may not have been completely filled up until the following day. When the whole enumeration in his district shall have been completed, two complete copies of all the pages are to be made. These are to be carefully read over, and each compared to see that it is correct and agrees with the original.

8. Each assistant is to sign his name on each page of the schedule, and certify, and make oath or affirmation, at the end of each set of returns, that they were made according to his oath and instruction, to the best of his knowledge and belief. Two of the sets are to be forwarded to the marshal of his district, and one filed with the clerk of the court for preservation with the county records; in proof of the filing of which he must procure, and forward to his marshal, the certificate of the clerk of the county.

Discretion as to what schedules will be needed by each assistant is lodged with the marshal, and is at all times to be used. In the free States schedule No. 2 will be omitted.

For the guidance of assistants, each will be furnished with a set of schedules filled up in the manner contemplated by the act of Congress and these instructions.

1850: Circular to Marshals

To the United States Marshals and Assistants:

Information has been received at this office that in some cases unnecessary exposure has been made by the assistant marshals with reference to the business and pursuits, and other facts relating to individuals, merely to gratify curiosity, or the facts applied to the private use or pecuniary advantage of the assistant, to the injury of others. Such a use of the returns was neither contemplated by the act itself nor justified by the intentions and designs of those who enacted the law. No individual employed under sanction of the Government to obtain these facts has a right to promulgate or expose them without authority.

Although designed ultimately for the use of the people at large, the Department reserves to itself the privilege of examining into the correctness of the returns, and arranging them in proper form for publication by Congress before any other use shall be made thereof; and all marshals and assistants are expected to consider the facts intrusted to them as if obtained exclusively for the use of the Government, and not to be used in any way to the gratification of curiosity, the exposure of any man's business or pursuits, or for the private emolument of the marshal or assistants, who, while employed in this service, act as the agents of the Government in the most confidential capacity. When your original copies are filed with the clerks of the courts and secretary of your state, they will be under the control of those officers and subject to the usual regulations of the respective offices, and you can enjoy the same access to them which can be had by every citizen. To the publication of the mere aggregate number of persons in your district there can be no objection.

Explanation of Schedule No. 1.-Free Inhabitants.

This schedule is to be filled up in the following manner:

Insert in the heading the name of number of the district, town, or city of the county or parish, and of the state, and the day of the month upon which the enumeration was taken. This is to be attested on each page of each set, by the signature of the assistant.

The several columns are to be filled as follows:

1. Under heading 1, entitled "Dwelling houses numbered in the order of visitation," insert the number of dwelling houses occupied by free inhabitants, as they are visited. The first house visited to be numbered 1; the second visited, 2; the third one visited, 3; and so on to the last house visited in the subdivision. By a dwelling house is meant a separate inhabited tenement, containing one or more families under one roof. Where several tenements are in one block, with walls either of brick or wood to divide them, having separate entrances, they are each to be numbered as separate houses; but where not so divided, they are to be numbered as one house.

If a house is used partly for a store, shop, or for other purposes, and partly for a dwelling house, it is to be numbered as a dwelling house. Hotels, poorhouses, garrisons, hospitals, asylums, jails, penitentiaries, and other similar institutions, are each to be numbered as a dwelling house; where the house is of a public nature, as above, write perpendicularly under the number, in said column, the name or description, as "hotel," "poorhouse," etc.

2. Under heading 2, entitled "Families numbered in the order of visitation," insert the number of the families of free persons as they are visited. The first family visited by the assistant marshal is to be numbered 1; the second one visited, 2; and so on to the last one visited in his district.

By the term family is meant, either one person living separately in a house, or a part of a house, and providing for him or herself, or several persons living together in a house, or in part of a house, upon one common means of support, and separately from others in similar circumstances. A widow living alone and separately providing for herself, or 200 individuals living together and provided for by a common head, should each be numbered as one family.

The resident inmates of a hotel, jail, garrison, hospital, an asylum, or other similar institution, should be reckoned as one family.

3. Under heading 3, entitled, "The name of every person whose usual place of abode on the 1st day of June, 1850, was in this family," insert the name of every free person in each family, of every age, including the names of those temporarily absent, as well as those that were at home on that day. The names of every member of a family who may have died since the 1st day of June is to be entered and described as if living, but the name of any person born since the 1st day of June is to be omitted. The names are to be written beginning with the father and mother; or if either, or both, be dead, begin with some other ostensible head of the family; to be followed, as far as practicable, with the name of the oldest child residing at home, then the next oldest, and so on to the youngest, then the other inmates, lodgers and borders, laborers, domestics, and servants.

All landlords, jailors [sic], superintendents of poorhouses, garrisons, hospitals, asylums, and other similar institutions, are to be considered as heads of their respective families, and the inmates under their care to be registered as members thereof, and the details concerning each designated in their proper columns.

Indians not taxed are not to be enumerated in this or any other schedule.

By place of abode is meant the house or usual lodging place of a person. Anyone who is temporarily absent on a journey, or for other purposes, without taking up his place of residence elsewhere, and with the intention of returning again, is to be considered a member of the family which the assistant marshal is enumerating.

Students in colleges, academies, or schools, when absent from the families to which they belong, are to be enumerated only as members of the family in which they usually boarded and lodged on the 1st day of June.

Assistant marshals are directed to make inquiry at all stores, shops, eating houses, and other similar places, and take the name and description of every person who usually slept there, provided such person is not otherwise enumerated.

Inquiries are to be made at every dwelling house, or of the head of every family. Those only who belong to such family, and consider it their home or usual place of abode, whether present or temporarily absent on a visit, journey, or a voyage, are to be enumerated. Persons on board of vessels accidentally or temporarily in port , temporarily boarding for a few days at a sailors boarding or lodging house, if they belong to other places are not to be enumerated as the population of a place.

The sailors and hands of a revenue cutter which belongs to a particular port should be enumerated as of that port. A similar rule will apply to those employed in the navigation of the lakes, rivers, and canals. All are to be taken at their homes or usual place of abode, whether present or absent; and if any live on board of vessels or boats who are not so enumerated, they are to be taken as of the place where the vessel or boat is owned, licensed, or registered. And the assistant marshals are to make inquiry at every vessel and boat employed in the internal navigation of the United States, and enumerate those who are not taken as belonging to a family on shore; and all persons of such description in any one vessel are to be considered as belonging to one family and the vessel their place of abode. The assistants in all seaports will apply at the proper office for lists of all persons on a voyage at sea and register all citizens of the United States who have not been registered as belonging to some family.

Errors necessarily occurred in the last census in enumerating those employed in navigation because no uniform rule was adopted for the whole United States. Assistant marshals are required to be particular in following the above directions, that similar errors may now be avoided.

4. Under heading 4, entitled "Age," insert in figures what was the specific age of each person at his or her last birthday previous to the 1st of June, opposite the name of such person. If the exact age in years can not be ascertained, insert a number which shall be the nearest approximation to it.

The age, either exact or estimated, is to be inserted.

If the person be a child under 1 year old, the entry is to be made by the fractional parts of a year, thus: one month, one-twelfth; two months, two-twelfths; three months, three-twelfths, and so on to eleven months, eleven-twelfths.

5. Under heading 5, entitled "Sex," insert the letter M for male and F for female, opposite the name, in all cases, as the fact may be.

6. Under heading 6, entitled "Color," in all cases where the person is white, leave the space blank; in all cases where the person is black, insert the letter B; if mulatto, insert M. It is very desirable that these particulars be carefully regarded.

7. Under heading 7, entitled "Profession, occupation, or trade of each person over 15 years of age," insert opposite the name of each male the specific profession, occupation, or trade which the said person is known and reputed to follow in the place where he resides - as clergyman, physician, lawyer, shoemaker, student, farmer, carpenter, laborer, tailor, boatman, sailor, or otherwise, as the fact may be. When more convenient, the name of the article he produces may be substituted.

When the individual is a clergyman, insert the initials of the denomination to which he belongs before his profession - as Meth. for Methodist, R.C. for Roman Catholic, O.S.P. for Old School Presbyterian, or other appropriate initials, as the fact may be. When a person follows several professions or occupations the name of the principal one only is to be given. If a person follows no particular occupation, the space is to be filled with the word "none."

8. Under heading 8 insert the value of real estate owned by each individual enumerated. You are to obtain the value of real estate by inquiry of each individual who is supposed to own real estate, be the same located where it may, and insert the amount in dollars. No abatement of the value is to be made on account of any lien or incumbrance [sic] thereon in the nature of debt.

9. Under heading 9, "Place of birth." The marshal should ask the place of birth of each person in the family. If born in the State or Territory where they reside, insert the name or initials of the State or Territory, or the name of the government or country if without the United States. The names of the several States may be abbreviated.

Where the place of birth is unknown, state "unknown."

10. Under No. 10 make a mark, or dash, opposite the name of each person married during the year previous to the 1st of June, whether male or female.

11. Under heading 11, entitled "At school within the last year." The marshal should ask what member of this family has been at school within the last year; he is to insert a mark, thus, (1), opposite the names of all those, whether male or female, who have been at educational institutions within that period. Sunday schools are not to be included.

12. Under heading 12, entitled "Persons over 20 years of age who can not read and write." The marshal should be careful to note all persons in each family, over 20 years of age, who can not read and write, and opposite the name of each make a mark, thus, (1). The spaces opposite the names of those who can read and write are to be left blank. If the person can read and write a foreign language, he is to be considered as able to read and write.

13. Heading 13, entitled "Deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict." The assistant marshal should ascertain if there be any person in the family deaf, dumb, idiotic, blind, insane, or pauper. If so, who? And insert the term "deaf and dumb," "blind," "insane," and "idiotic," opposite the name of such persons, as the fact may be. When persons who had been convicted of crime within the year reside in families on the 1st of June, the fact should be stated, as in the other cases of criminals; but, as the interrogatory might give offense, the assistants had better refer to the country record for information on this head, and not make the inquiry of any family. With the county record and his own knowledge he can seldom err.

Should a poorhouse, asylum for the blind, insane or idiotic, or other charitable institution, or a penitentiary, a jail, house of refuge, or other place of punishment, be visited by the assistant marshal, he must number such building in its regular order, and he must write after the number, and perpendicularly in the same column (No. 1) the nature of such institution - that it is a penitentiary, jail , house of refuge, as the case may be; and in column 13, opposite the name of each person, he must state the character of the infirmity or misfortune, in the one case, and in the other he must state the crime for which each inmate is confined, and of which such person was convicted; and in column No. 3, with the name, give the year of conviction, and fill all the columns concerning age, sex, color, etc., with as much care as in the case of other individuals.

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