|•||Dropped Calves and Hemp Fiber: The 1880 Agricultural Census|
Federal agricultural census schedules are generally extant for 1850 to 1880, however there are bound to be gaps. These records may hold clues about your ancestor's relative financial position that are not mentioned in property or tax records. We'll look at a few examples from the 1880 agricultural census.
The 1880 Agricultural Census for Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois, contains several of my relatives, including my great-great-grandfather, Michael Trautvetter. The schedule contains a great deal of information about the Trautvetter farm.
Michael owned his farm (no note as to whether or not it was mortgaged), which included seventy-nine tillable acres, one acre of meadow, and one hundred forty-five acres of woodland or forest (most likely timber). The value of the farm ($7,000), the implements ($100), and the livestock ($100) were also included. Michael had spent $50 on building and repairing fences during the year and had paid for fifty-six (or fifty) weeks of hired labor throughout the year. Of the ten farmers listed on Michael's page in the census, all but two had hired labor at some point during the year. The value of the labor was consistently five dollars per week. The farm included two acres of hay and four horses.
Michael grew two thousand bushels of Indian corn on forty-seven acres, sixty bushels of oats on five acres, and 353 bushels of wheat on twenty-five acres. One hundred barnyard chickens and nineteen “other” chickens produced a total of two hundred dozen eggs during the year. Twenty-four hogs, six milk cows, and ten “other” cattle (there were no working oxen) rounded out the livestock. Four calves were “dropped” (i.e., born) and three head of cattle were sold during the year. The farm had produced 150 pounds of butter.
Hops and tobacco were not grown on the Trautvetter farm, but there were five acres of Irish potatoes, resulting in 125 bushels. The Trautvetter's seventy apple trees were spread over two acres and produced one hundred bushels of apples during the year. There were no peaches, grapes, or honey produced on the farm. Nor was any wood cut and sold from the timber on John's property.
Several other ancestors were included in the same and nearby townships, allowing a comparison between the farms. One had lost sheep due to killings by dogs, and another apparently partially supported his family by selling cut wood. There were three possible types of tenure (possession) for the farmer listed: ownership, renting for a fixed amount, and renting for a share of the products. This may lead to possible land and property records.
The amount of hemp fiber was also counted, but I didn't notice any families with it listed among their entries. Of course, back then it was normally used to make rope, and the census taker probably didn't use an infrared camera to locate it.
While agricultural census records do not provide the genealogical details one expects from population schedules, information can be gleaned from them. This is particularly true when your ancestor's entry is compared to other entries on the same page and the same township. Don’t just compare your family's entry with the ones directly before and after it. I have eight ancestors listed in the 1880 agricultural census, and it is interesting to compare all of their entries.
What Farms Got Counted?
At the risk of summarizing a bit too much, here's a general idea:
Unfortunately, there is no one site where you can determine which federal agricultural census records are available (if there is such a page, please e-mail me and we'll let Daily News readers know). However, what follows are some links to pages that have information on agricultural census records on a wide variety of areas. Readers may also wish to consult “The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy” by Loretto D. Szucs and Sandra H. Luebking, pp. 129-134, for more information on these records.
microfilmed copies of agricultural and other non-population censuses:
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