1880 U.S. Census
The 1880 census began on 1 June 1880. The enumeration was to be completed within thirty days, or within two weeks for communities with populations of 10,000 or more. The official census population count was 50,189,209.
Questions Asked in the 1880 Census
For each person in every household, the census asked the number of the dwelling house and the family, in order of visitation; the person’s name; whether the person was white, black, mulatto, Indian, or Chinese; his or her sex and age, and the month of birth if born within the year; the person’s relationship to the head of the household; whether he or she was single, married, widowed, or divorced; whether married within the year; his or her occupation and months unemployed; the name of the state, territory, or country of birth; his or her parents’ birthplaces; whether he or she attended school during the year; whether he or she was unable to read if age ten or older; and whether the person was sick or temporarily disabled on the day of enumeration, including the reason therefore. Those who were blind, deaf-mute, “idiotic,” insane, or permanently disabled were also indicated as such.
Other Significant Facts about the 1880 Census
In addition to identifying the state, county, and other subdivisions, the 1880 census was the first to provide the name of the street and house number for urban households. The 1880 census was also the first to identify relationship to the head of household; illness or disability at the time the census was taken; marital status; number of months unemployed during the year; and the state or country of birth of every individual’s father and mother. Individuals who were born or died after 1 June 1880 were not included in the 1880 census, even though the enumerator may not have questioned the family until well after that date. Indians not taxed are not in regular population schedules. Some may appear in special Indian schedules. (Also see “Non-Population Schedules and Special Censuses,” on page 196.)
Research Tips for the 1880 Census
The 1880 census makes it possible to identify the state or country of birth for parents, which is especially important for tracing movements of immigrant ancestors. The census may be used to supplement birth or marriage records for the census year or even to partially replace them where vital records are not recorded elsewhere. The census may also be useful in discovering previously unknown surnames of married daughters, mothers-in-law, cousins, and other relatives living with the family. This is the first census to state relationship to the head of household, but the wife may not be the mother of the children. The 1880 census may also provide clues to genetic symptoms and diseases in earlier generations of a family.
For a state-by-state listing of census schedules, see The 1790–1890 Federal Population Censuses: Catalog of National Archives Microfilm. For boundary changes and identification of missing census schedules, see Thorndale’s and Dollarhide’s Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790–1920. Also available are 1885 territorial censuses for Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, Dakota Territory, and New Mexico.