1870 Census: Instructions to Assistant Marshals

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Department of the Interior
Washington, D.C., May 1, 1870

The following rules and instructions are published for the guidance of Assistant Marshals. Strict and literal compliance in every particular will be enforced. The Department will not recognize any claim for compensation until the whole work has been well and properly done.

J.D. Cox,
Secretary of the Interior


Assistant Marshals will begin the enumeration of their subdivisions, June 1, and continue it without interruption till the work is complete. Intermission of work will be sufficient cause for removal. Assistant Marshals will report progress to the Marshal regularly once a fortnight: failure to do so will be sufficient cause for removal.

Each Assistant will provide himself with a secure portable inkstand, good ink, and a sufficient number of pens. All entries will be carefully dried with the blotting paper which accompanies each portfolio. Each page of schedules will, be numbered in exact order as filled, and when filled. The first page of the first sheet of each of the five schedules (Inhabitants, Mortality, Agriculture, &c.) must be numbered 1; first page of second sheet, 5; first page of third sheet, 9; and so on, continuously, until the township, or borough, or parish (or ward of a city) is completed. Begin each township, borough, &c., with a new sheet, or new half sheet (without tearing it off). Use the greatest care to preserve your blanks from unnecessary exposure, and your schedules, when filled, from loss. Let no one meddle with your papers. Carry as little finished work as possible, and as few schedules at a time as will answer your purpose. Always carry the full pamphlet of instructions.

Sheets must never be folded, either in the course of enumeration, or in transmission to Marshals, or to the Census Office. Whenever sheets are sent in sufficient number to allow it, they will be sent in flat packages, at length. When the package is too small for this, the sheets will be rolled.

Half sheets will not be used, except when they are the last or the only sheets (of that schedule) from that subdivision. A limited number of half sheets is furnished for use in the smaller subdivisions.

There are certain columns on each schedule which must be filled in every case, or the work of enumeration has not been performed.

Such are:

3, 4, 5, 6, 10,      on Schedule 1,
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12,   " Schedule 2,
1, 2, 52,         " Schedule 3,
1, 2, 3, 12, 15, 18,     " Schedule 4.

When the Census Office is put to trouble and expense, by having to obtain through subsequent correspondence the answers to these questions, the cost of clerk hire and correspondence to the Department will be estimated, and deduction will be made for work not done. The attention of Assistant Marshals is invited, in this connection, to the phraseology of the law fixing the rates of compensation. "For each farm fully returned, ten cents; for each establishment of productive industry, fully taken and returned, fifteen cents." (Section 13, act of. May 23, 1850).

After enumerating a family, farm, shop, &c., the entries made should be read over to the party giving the information, that all mistakes may be corrected on the spot, at the time. This is a requirement of law.

The name of the town, township, parish, &c., of the county, of the State, and of the post office; the day of the month, and the month, and the name of the Assistant Marshal, in his own handwriting, must be filled into the proper spaces on each page, except in the case of the Agricultural Schedule, where each alternate page will be signed and filled as above required.

On all the schedules, when Values are required to be stated, omit fractions of a dollar.

As far as possible, Assistant Marshals will have the first copy of their returns made from the sheets as they are completed, so that the full returns may be sent to the Marshal at the earliest practicable moment after the enumeration closes. Great pains will be taken in comparing the copy intended for the Census Office with the originals, point by point. The second copy required by law will be forwarded to the Marshal when completed. At the end of each set of returns, the Assistant Marshal will certify that they were made according to law and instructions.

Special attention will be paid to the rules relating to the distribution, care, and use of blanks, laid down in circular from the Department of the Interior, of May 12th, 1870.

Assistant Marshals will return their portfolios to the Marshals when their duties are completed.

The tenth section of the act of May 23, 1850, requires that the Assistant Marshal shall make the enumeration by actual inquiry at every dwelling-house, or by personal inquiry of the head of every family, and not otherwise. The duty cannot be performed by deputy or proxy. General publication will be made of the fact, so that citizens may know their rights, and resent unauthorized intrusion or inquiry. When persons properly subject to enumeration refuse to give information in the particulars required, they will be admonished of their liability under the provisions of the fifteenth section of the act of May 23, 1850. Assistant Marshals will, however, make as little show as possible of authority. They will approach every individual in a conciliatory manner; respect the prejudices of all; adapt their inquiries to the comprehension of foreigners and persons of limited education; and strive in every way to relieve the performance of their duties from the appearance of obtrusiveness. Anything like an overbearing disposition should be an absolute disqualification for the position.

No graver offense can be committed by Assistant Marshals than to divulge information acquired in the discharge of their duty. All disclosures should be treated as strictly confidential, with the exception hereafter to be noted in the case of the Mortality Schedule. Information will be solicited of any breach of confidence on the part of Assistant Marshals. The Department is determined to protect the citizen in all his rights in the present Census.

Assistant Marshals, on receiving notice of their appointment, are advised and requested to prosecute informal inquiries, within the limits of civility and discretion, in any direction which will enable them the better to begin and complete their work; especially to make themselves as intelligent as possible in regard to the industrial character of their subdivisions, and the peculiar conditions of each important industry.


Numbering.-Dwelling houses and families will be numbered consecutively, in order as visited, until the township, borough, or parish (or ward of a city) is completed, when a new numbering will begin, as in the case with the numbering of pages.

Dwelling houses.-By "dwelling house" is meant a house standing alone, or separated by walls from other houses in a block. Only such buildings are to be reckoned as dwelling houses as have been used as the entire habitation of a family. But houses only temporarily uninhabited are to be returned and numbered in order. In that case a dash, thus (-), will be drawn through column No. 2, and the remaining spaces on the line be left blank. Hotels, poorhouses, garrisons, asylums, jails, and similar establishments, where the inmates live habitually under a single roof, are to be regarded as single dwelling houses for the purposes of the census. The character of such establishments should be written longitudinally in the column.

Eating houses, stores, shops, etc.-Very many persons, especially in cities, have no other place of abode than stores, shops, etc.; places which are not primarily intended for habitation. Careful inquiry will be made to include this class and such buildings will be reckoned as dwelling houses within the intention of the census law; but a watchman, or clerk belonging to a family resident in the same town or city, and sleeping in such store or shop merely for purposes of security, will be enumerated as of his family.

Families.-By "family (column 2) is meant one or more persons living together and provided for in common. A single person, living alone in a distinct part of a house, may constitute a family; while, on the other hand, all the inmates of a boarding house or a hotel will constitute but a single family, though there may be among them many husbands with wives and children. Under whatever circumstances, and in whatever numbers, people live together under one roof, and are provided for at a common table, there is a family in the meaning of the law.

Names of individuals.-In column 3 will be entered the name of every person in each family, of whatever age, including the names of such as were temporarily absent on the 1st day of June, 1870. The name of any member of the family who may have died between the 1st day of June, 1870, and the day of the assistant marshal's visit is to be entered, and the person fully described, as if living; but the name of any person born during that period is to be omitted. The name of the father, mother, or other ostensible head ofthe family (in the case of hotels, jails, etc., the landlord, jailor, etc.) is to be entered first of the family. The family name is to be written first in the column, and the full first or characteristic Christian or "given" name of each member of the family in order thereafter. So long as the family name remains the same for the several members it need not be repeated, provided a clear horizontal line be drawn in the place it would occupy, thus:

Smith, John.
_____ Elizabeth.

Place of abode.-By "place of abode" s meant the house or usual lodging place. All persons temporarily absent on journey or visit are to be counted as of the family; but children and youth absent for purposes of education on the 1st of June, and having their home in a family where the school or college is situated, will be enumerated at the latter place.

Seafaring men are to be reported at their land homes, no matter how long they may have been absent, if they are supposed to be still alive. Hence, sailors temporarily at a sailors' boarding or lodging house, if they acknowledge any other home within the United States, are not to be included in the family of the lodging or boarding house. Persons engaged in internal transportation, canal men, expressmen, railroad men, etc., if they habitually return to their homes in the intervals of their occupation, will be reported as of their families, and not where they may be temporarily staying on the 1st of June.


Columns 4, 5, and 6, must, in every case, be filled with the age, sex, or color of the person enumerated. No return will be accepted when these spaces are left blank.

Ages.-The exact age, in figures, will be inserted in column 4, wherever the same can be obtained; otherwise, the nearest approximation thereto. Where the age is a matter of considerable doubt, the assistant marshal may make a note to that effect. Children, who, on the 1st of June, 1870, were less than a year old, will have their age stated by the fractional part of the year, as (one month) 1-12, (three months) 3-12, (nine months) 9-12, etc. In all other cases, months will be omitted. The age taken is the age at last birthday.

Color.-It must not be assumed that, where nothing is written in this column, "White" is to be understood. The column is always to be filled. Be particularly careful in reporting the class Mulatto. The word is here generic, and includes quadroons, octoroons, and all persons having any perceptible trace of African blood. Important scientific results depend upon the correct determination of this class in schedules 1 and 2.

(For reporting occupation, see remarks at the close of the instructions in regard to this schedule.)

Property.-Column 8 will contain the value of all real estate owned by the person enumerated, without any deduction on account of mortgage or other incumbrance, whether within or without the census subdivision or the country. The value meant is the full market value, known or estimated.

"Personal estate," column 9, is to be inclusive of all bonds, stocks, mortgages, notes, live stock, plate, jewels, or furniture, but exclusive of wearing apparel. No report will be made when the personal property is under $100.

Column 10 will contain the "Place of birth" of every person named upon the schedule. If born within the United States, the State or Territory will be named, whether it be the State or Territory in which the person is at present residing or not. If of foreign birth, the country will be named as specifically as possible. Instead of writing "Great Britain" as the place of birth, give the particular country, as England, Scotland, Wales. Instead of "Germany," specify the State, as Prussia, Baden, Bavaria, Wurttemburg, Hesse Darmstadt, etc.

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 can not read or can not 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.

Education.-It will not do to assume that, because a person can read, he can, therefore, write. The inquiries contained in columns 16 and 17 must be made separately. Very many persons who will claim to be able to read, though they really do so in the most defective manner, will frankly admit that they can not write. These inquiries will not be asked of children under 10 years of age. In regard to all persons above that age, children or adults, male and female, the information will be obtained.

At school.-It is not intended to include those whose education has been limited to Sunday or evening schools.

Deaf and dumb, Blind, Insane, or Idiotic.-Great care will be taken in performing this work of enumeration, so as at once to secure completeness and avoid giving offense. Total blindness and undoubted insanity only are intended in this inquiry. Deafness merely, without the loss of speech, is not to be reported. The fact of idiocy will be better determined by the common consent of the neighborhood, than by attempting to apply any scientific measure to the weakness of the mind or will.


Upon the answers to the questions under this head will depend the distribution of representative power in the General Government. It is therefore imperative that this part of the enumeration should be performed with absolute accuracy. Every male person born within the United States, who has attained the age of 21 years, is a citizen of the United States by force of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution; also, all person born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, whose fathers at the time of their birth were citizens of the United States (act of February 10, 1855); also, all persons born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, who have been declared by judgment of court to have been duly naturalized, having taken out both "papers."

The part of the enumerator's duty which relates to column 19 is therefore easy, but it is none the less of importance. It is a matter of more delicacy to obtain the information required by column 20. Many persons never try to vote, and therefore do not know whether their right to vote is or is not abridged. It is not only those whose votes have actually been challenged, and refused at the polls for some disability or want of qualification, who must be reported in this column; but all who come within the scope of any State law denying or abridging suffrage to any class or individual on any other ground than participation in rebellion, or legal conviction of crime. Assistant marshals, therefore, will be required to carefully study the laws of their own States in these respects, and to satisfy themselves, in the case of each male citizen of the United States above the age of 21 years, whether he does or does not, come within one of these classes.

As the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting the exclusion from the suffrage of any person on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, has become the law of the land, all State laws working such exclusion have ceased to be of virtue. If any person is, in any State, still practically denied the right to vote by reason of any such State laws not repealed, that denial is merely an act of violence, of which the courts may have cognizance, but which does not come within the view of marshals and their assistants in respect to the census.

Indians.-"Indians not taxed" are not to be enumerated on schedule 1. Indians out of their tribal relations, and exercising the rights of citizens under State or Territorial laws, will be included. In all cases write "Ind." in the column for "Color." Although no provision is made for the enumeration of "Indians not taxed," it is highly desirable, for statistical purposes, that the number of such persons not living upon reservations should be known. Assistant marshals are therefore requested, where such persons are found within their subdivisions, to make a separate memorandum of names, with sex and age, and embody the same in a special report to the census office.

Occupation.-The inquiry, "Profession, occupation, or trade," is one of the most important questions of this schedule. Make a study of it. Take special pains to avoid unmeaning terms, or such as are too general to convey a definite idea of the occupation. Call no man a "factory hand" or a "mill operative." State the kind of mill or factory. The better form of expression would be, "works in cotton mill," "works in paper mill," etc.. Do not call a man a "shoemaker," "bootmaker," unless he makes the entire boot or shoe in a small shop. If he works in (or for) a boot and shoe factory, say so.

Do not apply the word "jeweler" to those who make watches, watch chains, or jewelry in large manufacturing establishments.

Call no man a "commissioner," a "collector," an "agent," an "artist," an "overseer," a "professor," a "treasurer," a "contractor," or a "seculator," without further explanation.

When boys are entered as apprentices, state the trade they are apprenticed to, as "apprenticed to carpenter," "apothecary's apprentice."

When a lawyer, a merchant, a manufacturer, has retired from practice or business, say "retired lawyer," "retired merchant," etc. Distinguish between fire and life insurance agents.

When clerks are returned, describe them as "clerk in store," "clerk in woolen mill," "R.R. clerk," "bank clerk," etc.

Describe no man as "mechanic" if it possible to describe him more accurately.

Distinguish between stone masons and brick masons.

Do not call a bonnet maker a bonnet manufacturer, a lace maker a lace manufacturer, a chocolate maker a chocolate manufacturer. Reserve the term manufacturer for proprietors of establishments; always give the branch of manufacture.

Whenever merchants or traders can be reported under a single word expressive of their special line, as "grocer," it should be done. Otherwise, say dry goods merchant, coal dealer, etc.

Add, in all cases, the class of business, as wholesale (wh.), retail (ret.), importer (imp.), jobber, etc.

Use the word huckster in all cases where it applies.

Be very particular to distinguish between farmers and farm laborers. In agricultural regions this should be one of the points to which the assistant marshal should especially direct his attention.

Confine the use of the words "glover," "hatter," and "furrier" to those who actually make, or make up, in their own establishments, all, or a part, of the gloves and hats or furs which they sell. Those who only sell these articles should be characterized as "glove dealer," "hat and cap dealer," "fur dealer."

Judges (state whether Federal or State, whether probate, police, or otherwise) may be assumed to be lawyers, and that addition, therefore, need not be given; but all other officials should have their profession designated, if they have any, as "retired merchant, governor of Massachusetts," "paper manufacturer, representative in legislature." If anything is to be omitted, leave out the office, and put in the occupation.

As far as possible distinguish machinists, as "locomotive builders," "engine builders," etc.

Instead of saying, "packers," indicate whether you mean "pork packers" or "crockery packers," or "mule packers."

The organization of domestic service has not proceeded so far in this country as to render it worth while to make distinction in the character of work. Report all as "domestic servants."

Cooks, waiters, etc., in hotels and restaurants will be reported separately from domestic servants.

The term "housekeeper" will be reserved for such persons as receive distinct wages or salary for the service. Women keeping house for their own families or for themselves, without any other gainful occupation, will be entered as "keeping house." Grown daughters assisting them will be reported without occupation.

You are under no obligation to give any man's occupation just as he expresses it. If he can not tell intelligibly what it is, find out what he does, and characterize his profession accordingly.

The inquiry as to occupation will not be asked in respect to infants or children too young to take any part in production. Neither will the doing of domestic errands or family chores out of school be considered an occupation. "At home' or "attending school" will be the best entry in the majority of cases. But if a boy or girl. whatever the age, is earning money regularly by labor, contributing to the family support, or appreciably assisting in mechanical or agricultural industry, the occupation should be stated.

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