Part of the U.S. Federal Censuses from 1850-1880 included a mortality schedule enumerating the individuals who had died in the previous year. Because each of the censuses from 1850-1880 began on June 1, “previous year” refers to the 12 months preceding June 1, or June 1 (of the previous year) to May 31 (of the census year).
This database contains an index to individuals enumerated in these mortality schedules. In addition, each individual is linked to the census image on which they appear. Not all information that is recorded on the actual census is included in the index. Therefore, it is important that you view the image on which your ancestor is recorded to obtain all possible information about him/her. This database often included the names of the slave owners whose slaves had passed - please search in the 'Other' field to locate slave owners.
About State Censuses
In addition to the Federal Mortality Schedules, this database also includes Mortality Schedules from three State Censuses – Colorado, Florida, and Nebraska conducted in 1885. The federal act of 1879 that regulated the 1880 census also requested states and territories to conduct semi-decennial state censuses offering monetary compensation to those who did. Fifty percent of the amount states and territories paid supervisors and enumerators would be remunerated to the state or territory from the Federal Treasury on completion of the census. These records were later transferred from state archives to the National Archives.
Questions asked in the mortality schedules:
- Deceased's name
- Color (White, black, mulatto)
- Whether widowed
- Place of birth (state, territory, or country)
- Month in which the death occurred
- Profession, occupation, or trade
- Disease or cause of death
- Number of days ill
- Parents' birthplaces (added in 1870)
- Place where disease was contracted and how long the deceased was a resident of the area (added in 1880)
Why mortality schedules are useful:
Mortality schedules are essentially nationwide, state-by-state death registers that predate the recording of vital statistics in most states. While deaths are under-reported, the mortality schedules remain an invaluable source of information.
Mortality schedules are useful for tracing and documenting genetic symptoms and diseases and verifying and documenting Africa American, Chinese, and Native American ancestry, although African Americans are often included, especially if they were slaves.
By using these schedules to document death dates and family members, it is possible to follow up with focused searches in obituaries, mortuary records, cemeteries, and probate records. They can also provide clues to migration points and supplement information in population schedules.
Some of the above information taken from:
- Loretto Dennis Szucs, "Research in Census Records" In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).
- Crawford, Rebecca. The Forgotten Federal Census of 1885, Fall 2008, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Washington D.C.: National Archives, 2008).