The 1790 U.S. Federal Census was the very first enumeration conducted of the United States population as provided for in the U.S. Constitution. While the exact format was not specified, we're thankful that early authorities saw fit to record the names of heads of families, as well as gender and age classifications — paving the way for more information to be collected in future years. The 1790 census asked five questions: the number of free white males over 16 years old, free white males under 16, free white females, other, and number of slaves.
The population in 1790 numbered fewer than four million living among the thirteen original states. Nearly one-third of the original 1790 Census returns have been lost or destroyed. Those remaining include: Connecticut, Maine (part of Massachusetts in 1790), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont.
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The image at left shows a partial return from the town of Wenham, Essex County, Massachusetts. Lines three through five show Abraham Edwards, Benjamin Edwards, and Benjamin Edwards Jr., respectively, listed as Head of Family. Since they are listed in succession, it is likely that they were living together or next to one another. The schedule also shows there were a total of sixteen individuals living among these three families. Follow this link for more about the Edwards family of early Boston.
Follow this link for information about a walking tour of historic Boston.
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