Second Enumeration of 1870 Census

The 1870 census "day" was June 1, 1870. This 9th Federal census was probably one of the worst ever taken. The House of Representatives had tried to revise the census laws in 1870, but the Senate refused to consider the legislation, and so the old 1850 system was used in the count. A major revision did occur for the 1880 census including a shorter census taking period, use of special maps (Enumeration Districts), more oversight over the enumerators, and allowing women to be census takers.

The census takers were Assistant Marshals (AM) appointed by the Marshal of the area, and some had little qualifications for their job. This is the last census that used them. Fraud and mismanagement could be the result. In the south, an estimated 10% of the population were missed, perhaps from the use of northern census takers (carpetbaggers). In large cities curbstoning was suspected where census takers filled out the census schedules on the curb with fictitious information after estimating the number of families living in a tenement, by the number of windows seen, but not visiting each family.

There were high expectancies for large population increases for this census, but soon after the results were known, complaints arose about undercounts by the AMs. That eventually led the federal government to a recount, a second 1870 enumeration with the same census "day" of June 1st, in at least three counties (Davis Co KS, Geauga Co OH, Ottawa Co OH), and for Indianapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, and 3 Wards of St. Joseph MO. (St. Louis had a second enumeration in 1880 but not in 1870.) Many other locations did their own recounts as well. The importance of the second enumeration for New York City and Philadelphia is that addresses were included on the census forms for the first time.

In 1870, New York City consisted of mainly Manhattan, which was New York County. Its recount produced only an additional 2% more population, and Philadelphia about 2.6%. On the other hand, Indianapolis had expanded its city limits since the first count, and apparently counted that extra population in the recount, gaining about 19% in population, and the 3 Wards in St. Joseph gained about 50% in population. City (not federal) recounts for Baltimore showed a 5.8% increase in population, and for Savannah the city recount showed less people (97) then the original federal count. I have a YouTube video on the recounts (less Philadelphia) at JDW Talks 1870 Part 1. Philadelphia's recount history and census results are at JDW Talks 1870 Part 2.

Locating a household on the 1870 enumerations can be difficult if the family is not found on a name index. Fortunately the second enumerations for both New York City and Philadelphia contain addresses so you can do a location search. To do a location search you would use the One-Step Finder Tool.

This One-Step Finder Tool is based on Enumeration Districts (EDs) but Enumeration Districts did not exist in 1870. So we needed some way to define pseudo Enumeration Districts. For New York City we use the combination of Ward Number and Election District as if it was an Enumeration District. For example, Ward 12 Election District 14 would appear as Enumeration District 12/14. Once you determine the Enumeration District using the One-Step Finder Tool, you can get directly to the census images for that Enumeration District. Philadelphia is even more difficult because the census takers used Wards, Census Districts, Senatorial Districts, Election Divisions, Precincts, and even Township names on their census sheets or nothing at all. We finally decided to use the Ward Number and the name of the Assistant Marshal (AM) to define the Enumeration Districts for Philadelphia. For example, Ward 17 and AM Hale would appear as Enumeration District 17/Hale.

The One-Step Finder Tool uses tables to convert an address to an enumeration district. For New York City, the tables are based on an 1870 map of Manhattan found at There are no maps for the AM districts for Philadelphia, and we were forced to create its street list table from what was on the census sheets and some other resources. Because of this, the resultant tables is only a partial list of Philadelphia streets. A YouTube video on Philadelpia's One-Step Finder Aid, that I highly recommend for users of our 1870 utility, can be seen at JDW Talks 1870 Part 3.

We incorporated into the Philadelphia Finder table another way of going from a location to an Enumeration District. There is a Philadelphia Ward map for 1867 (still valid for 1870) on page 70 at that shows the boundaries for all 28 Philadelphia Wards. Also Census Districts 4 to 68 in Wards 2 to 20 do have boundary definitions from the Census Bureau and were plotted on an 1872 map and available at If you can place an address within one of those Wards or Census District numbers, then the One-Step Finder Tool includes those numbers linked to their Enumeration Districts.

-- Joel Weintraub revised Oct 2023