Evolution of the Census The Census as Historical Source The Aggregated Censuses

Using the Manuscript Agricultural Census

The same enumerators who collected the demographic information for the population census also surveyed farm operators regarding agricultural production, farm size, and farm value. This information, considered accurate as of June 1 of the census year, was compiled in the manuscript schedule of the agricultural census. The agricultural census contains data on all free persons who operated farms which produced goods valued at more than $100 a year. Enumerators, however, frequently ignored the $100 rule, as the presence in the agricultural census of Samuel Davis of Franklin County suggests. The manuscript agricultural census presented significantly more information than the other census schedules. For each farm operator, census-takers recorded data for forty eight separate categories, or fields; the census was so large that it took two pages to record all of the data on each individual. Users will find searching the agricultural census helpful in discovering information on the agricultural production of specific farm operators as well as in identifying county-wide patters in farm production. Those users interested in comparing and contrasting agricultural data in Augusta and Franklin counties should consult the aggregate data presented in the Statistical Tables Compiled from Census Records.

History of the Agricultural Census

Surprising as it may seem given the importance of agriculture to the young nation's economic well-being, statistics on agricultural production were not collected until the sixth census in 1840. In 1820 census-takers had taken note of the number of people engaged in agriculture, but it was not until twenty years later that more detailed records were kept on farm production. The manuscript schedule became more elaborate with each passing census. Whereas in 1840 enumerators collected information on thirty-seven fields on a schedule of "Mines, Agriculture, Commerce, Manufactures, etc.," in 1850 they recorded data from forty-six fields on a separate agricultural schedule. And in the eighth census in 1860, the agricultural schedule consisted of forty-eight different categories.

How to Search the Manuscript Agricultural Census

To begin searching the manuscript agricultural census, go to the main Census Search Page. This page offers the fields which the user can search for the agricultural census. Click in the box of the field you want to search and then enter the words or numbers you want to find. Use the Tab or Return key to move from one field to the next. You can search on as few or as many variables at one time as desired. When ready to begin the search, click the Initiate Search button. The search engine will return a results page listing all the entries which meet the criteria selected on the search form. Results are returned in pages of 50 records each - subsequent pages can be accesses using the "Next" and "Previous" buttons at the bottom of the page. The results page will display the data for some of the fields - full results can be found by following the link on the bottom of the page for "detailed search" results. Individual records can be accessed using the link for each individual name. At the bottom of the results page is a link to statistical information for the records returned. To begin a new search, use the back button to return to the search page, and click on the Clear button to clear the entry form.

For tips on searching, go to Tips for Searching Valley Databases.

Explanation of Fields

Last Name: Searching on the Last Name field will be a useful place to start for users seeking data on specific farm operators. For each farm, enumerators noted the name of the individual residing on and having control of the farm. Consequently, the agricultural census contains the names not only of farm owners but of managers, agents, and tenants. Users should consult the population census to determine if a farm operator is a tenant or an owner; tenants, unlike farm owners, will not have any (or much) real property since they are not landowners. Additionally, when more than one person operated a farm, enumerators recorded the name of only one person on the census. To search for individual farm operators by last name, click on the box for the Last Name field, enter the name, then click the Initiate Search button. The search engine will return a results page with information on farm size and value, crop production, and farm animals for all individuals with that last name.

First Name: The agricultural census also contains the first names of individual farm operators. Frequently enumerators abbreviated common first names: John as "Jno."; James as "Jas."; Joseph as "Jos."; Margaret as "Marg."; Elizabeth as "Eliz."; Solomon as "Sol."; Samuel as "Sml." Searching on the First Name field as well as on the Last Name field will enable one to search for a particular person or to refine a search for an individual.

Cash Value of Farm: This indicates the actual cash value of all farm land. That is, this value reflects the total value of both improved and unimproved acres of land. To calculate 2002 dollars, multiply 1860 dollars by 19.89; for further information on this conversion, see http://www.minneapolisfed.org/community_education/teacher/calc/hist1800.cfm. If the individual listed in the agricultural census is the actual owner of the farm, and not a tenant or manager, the amount indicated in this field will be similar to the amount recorded in the Real Estate Value field on the population census. If the farm value is far greater than the real estate value, the individual is not likely to be the farm owner. If the real estate value exceeds the farm value, it is likely that, in addition to owning the farm, the individual indicated owns other property in the county, such as a house in town or more farm land elsewhere. Thus, the Real Estate Value field of the population census represents the totalvalue of all land owned by an individual. The Cash Value of Farm field of the agricultural census refers simply to one piece of real estate.

Cash Value of Livestock: This field simply refers to the cash value of all livestock on the farm as of June 1, 1860. To calculate 2002 dollars, multiply 1860 dollars by 19.89 ; for further information on this conversion, see http://www.minneapolisfed.org/community_education/teacher/calc/hist1800.cfm.

Total Pounds of Tobacco: As the agricultural census indicates, very few farms in Augusta or Franklin counties grew tobacco. The great tobacco producing land of Virginia was located to the South and East of Augusta County.

Cash Value of Home Manufacturing: Census-takers recorded the value of all items produced by the farm during the previous year for home consumption or sale on the market. To calculate 2002 dollars, multiply 1860 dollars by 19.89; for further information on this conversion, see http://www.minneapolisfed.org/community_education/teacher/calc/hist1800.cfm. Items were either produced by the family which owned the farm or by others who lived on the farm. Thus, goods produced by slaves are included in this data.

Total Acres of Land: This field combines two categories of data collected by census-takers--acres of improved land and acres of unimproved lands. The former category refers to land which has been cleared and utilized for grazing or crop production (or which was fallow at the time of the enumeration), and the latter category refers to land which has not been cleared or which is not used in the workings of the farm. Unimproved land can also include land owned or managed by the farm operator but which does not lie contiguous to the farm. The combination of these two categories, thus, yields the actual size of the farm. As the aggregate data on farm acreage indicates, most farms in Augusta and Franklin counties were between 100 and 500 acres in size.

Total Number of Animals: This field is an aggregate of seven separate fields in which enumerators recorded the number of animals (livestock) on the farm. Included in this aggregation are both work animals--horses, mules, asses, and working oxen--and animals which were either slaughtered, such as swine, or animals which produced marketable goods, such as milch cows (milk) and sheep (wool). This field may not reflect the exact number of animals on the farm since, with the exception of swine, enumerators were instructed only to count the number of animals one year of age and older.

Total Bushels of Grain: Grain crops dominated agricultural production in Augusta and Franklin counties. Located in the "breadbasket" of the region, farms in these counties produced enormous quantities of wheat, corn, rye, and oats each year. This field combines production data on these four crops. The value indicated represents the total bushels of grain harvested between June 2, 1859, and June 1, 1860. Thus, some of these grain crops were actually sown in 1858.

Important Notations: An asterisk (*) at the end of a last name, first name, or middle initial indicates an illegible name on the manuscript census form. If "i?" appears in a field on the results page, this indicates an illegible entry on the manuscript census form. Sometimes enumerators skipped lines on the manuscript schedule, leaving gaps on the census form. Encountering the word "blank" on the results page indicates that there was no entry recorded.

Helpful Hints

Here are some helpful hints for searching the manuscript agricultural census:

  • Searching the agricultural census will be particularly useful to users when done in conjunction with searches of the population census and slaveowner census. Such searches will reveal demographic, family, and slaveowning data on particular farm operators.
  • For quantitative searches, the aggregate data available in the Statistical Tables Compiled from Census Records can help users select data to search and to refine their searches.
  • Be sure to click the Clear button before beginning a new search.
  • For state and regional comparisons of manufacturing characteristics, consult the Comparative Maps.