Census Records for Virginia
This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
• Indexed—1810 (part), 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
• Soundex—1880, 1900, 1910 (Miracode), 1920, 1930
Industry and Agriculture Schedules
• 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
• 1850 (indexed), 1860, 1870, 1880
• 1850, 1860
Union Veterans Schedules
The first federal census was taken in 1790, but neither the first enumeration nor that of 1800 has survived, except for the 1800 censuses of Accomack County (microfilm) and Louisa County (in print). Only part of the 1810 census exists. Virginia Tax lists from 1782 through 1785 (see Tax Records) were used as a substitute for the 1790 census, reportedly lost when the British burned the city of Washington during the War of 1812. Nettie Schreiner-Yantis and Florence Speakman Love, comps., The 1787 Census of Virginia: An Accounting of the Names of Every White Male Tithable Over 21 Years…, 3 vols. (Springfield, Va.: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987), is the best substitute available for the 1790 census. Compiled from Virginia’s 1787 tax lists, this source offers both more and less information than the original census. The 1790 census listed only heads-of-household but enumerated their families, including women. In contrast, tax commissioners in 1787 were required to list all free males subject to taxation, not just heads-of-household; women were only included if they owned personal property subject to taxation or were widows with sons aged sixteen to twenty-one. In cases where 1787 tax lists have not survived, Schreiner-Yantis and Love substituted other extant records.
Beginning in 1820 and continuing every ten years through 1930 (except for the 1890 census, which was also destroyed by fire), Virginia’s federal census records are available on microfilm at the Library of Virginia and through the FHL.
Two early censuses of Virginia have survived intact; only statistical abstracts remain of other censuses conducted. The first census is dated 16 February 1624 and is a list of the names of persons living in Virginia and the names of those who died since April 1623. The colony conducted a second census in January and February 1625. The Musters of the Inhabitants of Virginia were taken by household and includes ages, relationships, dates of arrival in Virginia, the name of the ship each person arrived in, and enumerations of weapons, buildings, foodstuffs, and boats. The information included varies from household to household and from plantation (or town) to plantation. Another census was conducted in 1634 but is apparently lost. The best transcription of the 1625 Musters is in Virginia F. Meyer and John Frederick Dorman, Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607–1625, 3d ed. (Richmond, Va.: Dietz Press, 1987).
Other lists of Virginia inhabitants include militia musters (see Virginia Military Records), tithables lists, and quitrent rolls (see Virginia Tax Records). These lists cover a single county or precinct rather than the entire colony.