16 August 2015

Check Those Mortality Schedules, 1850 - 1880

Most budding genealogists know that they should check the Federal censuses for their ancestor but many overlook checking the various Mortality schedules for their ancestor. If your ancestor happened to die between June 1, 1849 - May 31, 1850 or June 1, 1859 - May 31, 1860 or June 1, 1869 - May 31, 1870 or June 1, 1879 - May 31, 1880 you may miss a treasure lode if you overlook the Federal Mortality Schedules.

The Federal Mortality schedules record the names of all persons usually living at home who died during the 12 months ending on June 1 of the census years of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. The key terms are the words "all persons." Although the enslaved were considered property under the law, the enslaved who happened to die in that 12 months preceding the Federal Censuses of 1850 and 1860 were included by name. (Slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865). Other key data found in the mortality schedules about the deceased are his/her age, gender, marital status, color, profession, and condition. Place of birth, month and cause of death and number of days ill are also given. The enslaved deceased person's owner was included in the 1850 and 1860 schedules as well.

As with all the Federal censuses, information collected varied from census to census. In 1870 the national origin of the deceased's parents was added. The Mortality Schedule for the 1880 census includes length of time lived in the county, records of his/her citizenship, notes whether the disease was imported from another area, and name of attending physician.

Mortality schedules are essentially nationwide, state-by-state death registers that predate the recording of vital statistics in most states. (The State of South Carolina did not require registration of death until 1915.) In many states where vital records were not kept it provides a nation-wide death register for five years of those who happened to die June 2, 1849- May 31, 1850; June 2, 1859- May 31, 1860; June 2, 1869- May 31, 1870 or June 2, 1879- May 31, 1880. Even though it is commonly acknowledged that not all deaths were reported, the mortality schedules remain an invaluable source of information and family historians should check each one for their ancestors.

Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) provides an index to individuals enumerated in these mortality schedules entitled "U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules Index, 1850-1880." Each individual is linked to the census image on which they appear. Researching the mortality schedules can be a bit tricky as 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 in the year preceding thee 1850 and 1860 enumeration date.  ALE recommends that one uses the 'Other' field to locate slave owners.

Ancestry Library Edition has a chart of the mortality schedules available by state at  http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8756.
The Beaufort District Collection has printed copies of the 1850 and 1860 Mortality Schedules for South Carolina and we have 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 on microfilm.  In addition, the Ancestry Library Edition database contains images from the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 Mortality Schedules.

As with all genealogical research, one's goal is to garner ever more clues to flesh out your ancestors. 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.

Please note: The library's subscription to Ancestry Library Edition is only available within library walls. (Users cannot access from home.)

Need some help searching for your ancestors? You can "Book a Librarian" for advice on how to do family history research and/or to get help using Ancestry Library Edition. Call 843-255-6468 or e-mail gracec@bcgov.net to arrange a Research Consultation.

No comments: