An 1890 Census Fragment for Alaska is Rediscovered and Digitized

The National Archives recently digitized a previously unappreciated fragment of the 1890 census that contains information about 13 families in Alaska. This piece of the (mostly) destroyed 1890 census has essentially been “hiding in plain sight” since the National Archives published the Preliminary Inventory for Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census, in 1964. You can read more about it in “An 1890 Census Fragment for Alaska is Rediscovered.” Digital images are in the National Archives Catalog as “Logbook of Frank Lowell, Special Agent, Alaska District No. 2, 1890 Census” (National Archives Identifier 202288465).

A Horse, of Course!

From colonial times to the early 20th century horses were the primary means of transporting the mail, whether by a single rider on horseback or by wagon or stage coach pulled by a team. Certainly mail was also transported by railroad as as the network of “iron horses” developed, as well as by river- and ocean-going vessels.

The image below is a detail from a poor quality photo postcard from circa 1916. There are two men on horseback. The man on the right is identified as W. H. Bennett of McKee, Kentucky, whose age (in 1959) was 87 years. His horse has two mailbags, one on each side to distribute the burden. The other man is not identified. There are trees and other vegetation behind them but no buildings are visible.

Mail carrier on horseback about 1916. W. H. Bennett, McKee, Kentucky, age 87 in 1959, and an unidentified man from [76] Transportation of Mail – Saddle Bags” (NAID 204376381).

This postcard was privately printed. It is in the U.S. National Archives by an accident of history. On 11 August 1959, Postmaster D. N. Thomas of McKeesville forwarded the postcard along with two leather saddlebags to the Post Office in Cincinnati, Ohio, as “Items for a Postal Museum.” The mailbags were “not desired” and thus were “left in Cincinnati.” The postcard, however, ended up in a collection of “Exhibit Materials Relating to Postal History, 1905-1958” (National Archives Identifier 17027514) assembled by the Post Office Department Library that was subsequently accessioned into the National Archives.

National Archives Catalog Email Newsletters

The staff of the National Archives Catalog has a bimonthly newsletter to which anyone can subscribe; a pop-up invitation appears just about every time you visit the basic Catalog search page at https://catalog.archives.gov.

Recent past issues of the newsletter are archived here: https://us11.campaign-archive.com/home/?u=bfeaf03e7b0b1636c0b375892&id=921cecd7dd.

1810 Census for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts

In 1810, Salem, Massachusetts, was the 9th largest city in the United States, with 12,613 people. New York City was first with 96,373, and nearby Boston was fourth with 33,787.

From 1790 to 1870, U.S. Marshals and their assistants conducted the census. Preliminary Inventory 161, Records of the Bureau of the Census, on page 94, states:  “Under the provisions of the decennial census acts, 1790-1820, the population schedules were to be deposited with the district court clerks, ‘who were to receive and carefully preserve the same.’ …  A resolution of May 28, 1830 (4 Stat. 430), directed the clerks of the district courts to forward the population schedules for the first four censuses to the Secretary of State.  …  It is known that the 1790 schedules for Rhode Island were forwarded to Washington on June 22, 1830, as a result of the May 28 resolution. Presumably other extant population schedules, 1790-1820, were forwarded at about the same time, but no documentation of such action has been found.”

The Bureau of the Census bound the extant 1810 census schedules into volumes sometime between 1902 and 1934, but the volume that included Essex County lacked the town of Salem. Decades later these same records were microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M252, Third Census of the United States, 1810, which can be found digitally on popular genealogy websites. It’s likely that many people looking through the 1810 census schedules for Essex County have wondered why Salem was omitted. The answer finally came to light this year.

For unknown reasons, the 1810 census schedules for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, became aliened (separated) from Federal custody. Somehow, they eventually came into the custody of the Peabody Essex Museum Library in Salem, Massachusetts. A National Archives staff member noticed a reference to these records on Instagram in February 2021, which set NARA’s Permanent Records Capture team on a mission to return these important records to federal custody. Read more about it here: “Instagram Post Leads to Recovery of 1810 Census Rolls.”

Digital images of the 1810 census for Salem can be viewed in the National Archives Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205601220.

Premiering Today, June 15, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern: Merchant Marine Records at the National Archives at St. Louis

Premiering June 15, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern YouTube: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently accessioned the core collection of Merchant Marine Licensing Files, which are now open to the public for the first time at the National Archives at St. Louis. Theresa Fitzgerald, Director of the National Archives at St. Louis, will discuss these holdings as well as auxiliary collections of Merchant Marine records that are complex and closely connected. Presentation slides/handout here.

Upcoming California Genealogical Society Programs

The California Genealogical Society has a number of great online programs scheduled for the next several weeks. Check them out here. There’s even one called “Using the National Archives Websites (Plural)” tomorrow, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Pacific) that will be presented by a NARA staff member.

Premiering Today, June 8, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern: “Civil War Union Noncombatant Personnel: Teamsters, Laundresses, Nurses, Sutlers, and More”

Premiering today, June 8, 2021, at 1 p.m.! The National Archives Building in Washington, DC contains many records about noncombatant civilians connected with the Union Army during the American Civil War. However, the records are underutilized because there is no comprehensive index, no “one” place to look, and require time-consuming research into obscure records. Digitization is slowly changing that, however! This lecture by Claire Kluskens will provide suggestions for research with emphasis on online materials that can help you get started.

This is the 5th of six presentations in the 2021 NARA Genealogy Series.

Extension Service Motion Pictures Digitized

It’s not considered one of the “traditional” genealogy record groups, but Record Group 33, Records of the Extension Service, is a treasure trove of information about farm life across the United States from about 1910 to 1950 or so. Even if one’s own ancestors are not mentioned in the records, they provide excellent county-level context on rural life. I lectured on these records on the 2011 NARA genealogy fair and have written about them a couple times, as well. My research guide, Agricultural Extension Service Annual Reports, 1909-1968, and Related Records will help you get started.

NARA is working on digitizing the the Service’s microfilmed annual reports (ca. 1908-1944) so they are not yet available online. I am delighted to report, however, that nearly 350 motion picture films from RG 33 have been digitized and are available for viewing or download from the National Archives Catalog. (Some may be restricted by copyright or other intellectual property right restrictions.) Happy viewing!