Second Enumeration of 1870 Census

The 1870 census was probably the worst federal census ever taken. In the south, an estimated 10% of the population were missed due to the use of semi-literate northern census takers; this census was called the "carpetbaggers" census. The north didn't fare any better. The House of Representatives had tried to revise the census laws in 1870, but the Senate refused to consider the legislation. A major revision did occur for the 1880 census.

The census takers were appointed "assistant marshalls" and had little qualifications for their job. Fraud and mismanagement were sometimes the result. In large cities "curbstoning" occurred where these census takers filled out the census schedules with fictitious information after estimating the number of families living in a tenament, perhaps by the number of windows seen, but not visiting each family.

The 1870 census "day" was June 1, 1870. After the results were in, complaints rose about inaccurate counts. Finally, a second 1870 enumeration was ordered for New York, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Geauga County Ohio. (St Louis had a second enumeration in 1880 but not in 1870.) The second enumeration occurred about 6 months after the first enumeration. The importance of the second 1870 enumeration for New York City and Philadelphia is that addresses were included on the forms, for the first time.

Locating a household on the 1870 New York City (Manhattan) counts can be difficult if the family is not on a name index. A list of the definitions of the Wards and Election Districts published by the New York Times on Sept. 28th, 1968 may help finding locations. Between the first and second enumeration, however, the City revised the areas covered within Wards and Election Districts. A list of the 1870 Wards and Election District definitions for the second enumeration are apparently found at the NY Evening Express but are not online.

The NY Public Library uses a November 1870 map of Manhattan to determine the Ward and Election District of an address for the 1870 second enumeration. Luckily, that map is available online at . That map was used as the basis for our street index utility. We also used a map from 1867, as well as resources for street names in 1916, to come up with our index. Note that the northern part of Manhattan on the 1870 map has many street outlines shown without accompanying names. We are not sure if those streets actually existed in 1870, so no attempt was made to put names on those streets. Instead, "unknown" was added to the information for that Ward and Election District. If in doubt, use the online map cited above.

-- Joel Weintraub