1840 Census Surprises
Census Surprises: 1840 U.S. Census
by Jack Butler
The 1840 U.S. Census has a second page that is often totally overlooked by genealogists. This page has columns that provide information about how the family made its living - many "farmers" also ran businesses and about family members who might have had disabilities. Page two of this census also contains a column that could be the golden key that unlocks a treasure trove of genealogical facts.
Right in the middle of page two, we find the column "Pensioners for Revolutionary or military service included in the foregoing." This column provides the names and ages of anyone in the household who was receiving a Revolutionary War pension during the census year. It follows that where there is a pensioner, there must have been a Revolutionary War pension application - and these pension files can be goldmines for the genealogist.
For example, on the 1840 Census of Licking County, Ohio, the "Pensioners for Revolutionary or military service included in the foregoing" column reports that the household of W. W. Blake contained a pensioner named Chloe McCuller, age 811/2 years. Knowing this, the question becomes how do we make use of it?
There are several research options available at this point, but it is nearly always best to take the easiest - in this case an Ancestry.com search - first. The Ancestry.com search for Chloe McCuller returned 3 results that were related to Revolutionary War pension applications: a ledger of payments made to pensioners in Licking County, Ohio that included Chloe's name, a listing from the 1841 census of Revolutionary War pensioners, and the Index card from the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files at the National Archives. All three items included images of the original document, and all three included valuable genealogical data.
Of greatest value, from the research perspective was probably the index card.
What makes this card valuable is that it allows us to identify Chloe as the widow of William McCuller and tells us that William served in the Revolution from Massachussets, and, best of all, it gives us William McCuller's pension file number - this allows us to locate and review both William and Chloe McCuller's pension application files.
Revolutionary war pension files can be acquired from the National Archives and Records Administratrion in Wasington, D.C. - you can either order online or by mail. Many pension files are also available online at the Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) website - note that this is a subscription site and requires payment. At Footnote, we discovered a pension file that ran to more than 90 pages and included the following, along with many other bits of useful information:
And all of this was found because of one name entered on page 2 of the 1840 Census - one of the "bad census" reports.