A researcher recently requested to look at an obscure record series described simply as “Census records, 1880” (Series 5269). After retrieving the records, Archives staff became curious and set about trying to figure out what the records really were. The records include five booklets that were clearly standard forms (form 7-392) printed for the 1880 Federal Census and have notes indicating that they had been filed with the Weber County Clerk. They are titled “List of Persons” and each booklet lists the names, color, sex, and age of all the inhabitants of a given census enumeration district in Weber County, including Ogden 2nd and 3rd (municipal) Wards, Huntsville, Mound Fort, Lynne, Marriott, Riverdale, and Uintah. Archives staff searched available published sources for some reference to these forms, but couldn’t find any information. So what was their purpose, why were they filed with the county clerk, and why did only five booklets survive?
Archives staff next contacted the National Archives to see what information they might have. Initially National Archives staff members were both puzzled and excited. They had never seen an example of this kind of record before, but soon they responded with an answer. Apparently, for earlier censuses enumerators were required to submit a full second copy of their population schedules in order to receive payment for their work. By 1880 the process was simplified somewhat. According to The History and Growth of the United States Census (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900):
the enumerator was directed to forward the original schedules, duly certified, to the supervisor of his district, but before doing this, he was required, under the terms of section 6 of the act of April 20, 1880, to make and file in the office of the clerk of the county court or in the office of the court or board administering the affairs of the county to which his district belongs, a list of the names, with age, sex, and color, of all persons enumerated by him, which he shall certify to be true, and for which he shall be paid at the rate of 10 cents for each 100 names.
These lists apparently served as a type of invoice for services and made it possible for the census enumerators to get paid for their work. Because the records were probably not of much use to the county clerk once payment had been made, most of them would have been discarded. Somehow these five booklets from Weber County survived as rare evidence of how the census was conducted in 1880.
United States. Department of the Interior