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The 1840 U.S. Census Revisited

Except for my Brick Wall ancestors, I thought I had completed all the U. S. census work on my family. Then I read an article by Kathy Petlewski, MSLS, in the NGS Magazine and found that I had overlooked something in the 1840 U.S. census.

This was the last census that listed only heads of household by name. Everyone else was represented with just a tick mark. Yet, unbeknownst to me until now, this census record had a second page. In 1840 the federal government collected information about veterans, military pensioners, and their dependents.

It listed the name of anyone in the household who was receiving a pension regardless of whether that person was the head of household or not. How did I miss this? Was any military information recorded for my family?

Some of my paternal ancestors lived in the United States in 1840, so I decided to take a look at these third and fourth great-grandparents:

  1. Thomas Reed (1783-1852) lived at Ashmore, Illinois. No pensioners resided in this household. Thomas’ son Caleb (1818-1903), my ancestor, lived with him in 1840 and was represented by a tick mark.
  2. John Carter (1790-1841) also lived at Ashmore. He was not a veteran, either.
  3. Rhoda Hall Dunbar (1784-1850) was a widow in Stow, Ohio by 1840. Her husband and my ancestor Benjamin E. Dunbar was a veteran of the War of 1812 but had died in 1831. His militia service lasted only 3 days, and Rhoda was not receiving a widow’s pension.
  4. Gershom Hall (1760-1844) was Rhoda’s father and a Revolutionary War veteran living in Harwich, Massachusetts. He was not receiving a pension.

I have been unable to locate some of my Brick Wall ancestors on the 1840 U.S. census:

  1. Daniel Sherman (abt. 1800-bef. 1870). He resided mostly in Kentucky, but two of his children, Eliza (b. abt. 1838) and Thomas (my ancestor b. 1841) were reportedly born somewhere in Ohio. The only Daniel Sherman family I have found on the 1840 census for Ohio does not perfectly match my Sherman family. No one there was receiving a pension.
  2. John Davis Riddle (1821-1896). He may have been living in Ohio in 1840, but I have not found a census record for him. Perhaps he was still a tick mark. I do not know the names of his parents nor whether they were living in 1840.

My dad’s remaining ancestral families, the Ryans and Stilgenbauers, arrived in the United States after 1840. My mother’s Scandinavian family did not immigrate until the 20th century. No use looking for any of them on the 1840 census.

I thought I was on to something when I learned about page 2 of the 1840 census records. Unfortunately, no one in my family made the list.

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