Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finding Residents Through the Census

Using the US Censuses seems an obvious way of finding out who was living in the town of Port Tobacco in the 1800's. However. Charles County Census data was collected by districts and not by towns. Like most of the 1890 Census, the 1890 Maryland census data was destroyed by fire in 1921. However, the 1880 and 1870 Censuses do indicate who was living in Port Tobacco. For those years the Charles County census takers tended to skip lines in the ledger in order to group residences, and they specifically identified the people residing in the town of Port Tobacco. The Charles County census takers for prior years did no such groupings.
So how do we find the town residents before 1870?
We should be able to find out assuming
1) Census takers would ride from residence to residence collecting data, so people living near each other would appear in close proximity on the census pages.
2) Some people would continue to live in the town and would appear in consecutive censuses.
Using an on-line census database, the 1860 Census was searched for the head of each 1870 Port Tobacco residence. Some could not be found in Charles County. They may have lived outside Charles County, or else their names were not identifiable based on the census taken as writing and/or spelling. Luckily, a subset of 1860 Census pages associated with 1870 Port Tobacco residents was identified. The starting residence on the first page and the ending residence on the last page could not be definitively identified but could be bracketed by any residents who were farmers. Farmers would have needed more land than that of a town lot.
The same process works for the 1850 Census and for the 1840 Census, but it doesn't appear to help with the 1830 Census. So maybe the above assumptions don't hold for 1830. The assumptions definitely could not be used for the 1790 Charles County Census that has people listed in alphabetical order by surname.
- Carol Cowherd


Ken Wedding said...

I know it's more than just Port Tobacco, but the Charles Co. Genealogy web site has

Names from 1790 Charles Co census:

the 1776 Charles Co census and the 1840 "Census of Pensioners:"

Ken Wedding
Northfield, MN
(descendant of John Wedding, who lived in one of the Port Tobacco hundreds beginning in 1725)

Jim said...

Thank you for the comment and suggestions about sources. Carol is working her way back from 1880 to 1790 with the censuses, and eventually we will get those for 1900 through 1930. We will work on other sources as well and would appreciate hearing about anything that might be available.

We expect to be able to relate these records to the places that we investigate. We might, someday, excavate objects that we can identify as John Wedding's favorite pipe or mug...not at all beyond the realm of possibility.

If at anytime you would like to write blogs, with or without images, please send them to me at We will post anything that is relevant and appropriate.


violet said...

I was hoping you would be making your census findings searchable for people that are reaserching family from that area? I have african american Matthews family from Port Tobacco and La Plata,and I would love to connect some names!