Most genealogy researchers are familiar with the population schedules of 1790-1940 United States Federal censuses. Many are not as familiar with non-population schedules such as the Agricultural schedule, the Mortality schedule or the Industry/Manufacturers schedules. These schedules are often underutilized, but can provide the researcher with valuable information about your ancestors.
Many of your ancestors were farmers and as such would have been recorded in the agricultural census records. The agricultural schedule was kept from 1850-1910. Unfortunately, not all of these schedules survived. The 1890 schedule was lost due to the effects of the fire that destroyed the 1890 population census. The agricultural schedule of 1900 and 1910 were destroyed by congressional order. The surviving Agricultural census records are for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. (These can be found on Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com can frequently be accessed for free at your local library or your local Family History Center.)
Why would your ancestor not be included on the agricultural schedule? In 1850 farms that did not produce $100 in products were not included. In 1870 farms that produced less than $500 or that was less than 3 acres were not included.
Agricultural Schedule. Image from Ancestry.com.
Information Found on the Agricultural Schedule
- The name of the owner, manager or agent of the farm.
- In counties where tax and/or land records are missing, the agricultural schedule can place an ancestor in place and time.
- The agricultural schedule can provide a look at an ancestor’s household. What crops were raised (wheat, rye, Indian corn, oats, sweet potatoes, barley…..) What livestock (horses, asses and mules, milk cows, working oxen, other cattle, sheep and swine) was owned and the value of this livestock. How many acres the farm contained, including improved and unimproved.
- Just like the population census records, your ancestor’s neighborhood can be seen. This is important since you can learn who was in your ancestor’s FAN club [Friends, Associates and Neighbors].
- The agricultural census can help in differentiating between two people of the same name.
- Another interesting thing the southern researcher can learn is what how the Civil War affected your ancestor’s farm and land values.
Let’s take a closer look at the 1850 Agricultural Schedule
1850 Agricultural Census for Jesse R Haley of Halifax County, VA. Image from Ancestry.com
Jesse R Haley (~1802-1869) lived in Halifax County, Virginia. In 1850 Jesse owned his own farm consisting of 80 acres of land. 25 acres of land were improved and 55 acres were unimproved. The land was valued at $240. Farming implements and equipment were valued at $10. His livestock included 1 horse, 3 milk cows, 1 other cattle, 6 sheep and 22 swine. The livestock is valued at $136. Jesse Haley grew wheat, indian corn, tobacco, oats, peas, irish potatoes and sweet potatoes. The farm also produced 30 pounds of butter.
Now let’s take a closer look at Jesse Haley’s farm in 1860 Agricultural Schedule
Portion of the 1860 Agricultural Schedule for Jesse R Haley (Halifax County, VA). Image from Ancestry.com
Jesse R Haley was still living in Halifax County, Virginia on the same land next door to Nancy Tribble. He now has 80 acres (40 improved and 40 unimproved) worth $600. His farm equipment and implements are worth $40. He owns one horse, two milk cows, 2 working oxen, 3 other cattle, 22 sheep and 8 swine. His livestock is valued at $234. He grew indian corn, oats and tobacco valued at $985. He also grew peas, irish potatoes and produced 60 pounds of butter.
Between 1850 and 1860, Jesse Haley’s economic situation improved. He acquired more livestock and switched to predominantly sheep in 1860 as compared to swine in 1850. More milk cows led to an increase in butter production.
Unfortunately, Jesse Haley died in 1869, so the value of his land and farm after the Civil War in not known. Like others around him, it is almost certain the value of his farm was less than in 1860.
When searching your farming southern ancestors, be sure to look beyond the population census records. The Agricultural Schedules of the United States censuses will provide you with valuable information and clues about your ancestor leading to new research possibilities.
Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-prenuer who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. You can find Lisa online at Lisa Lisson.com.