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Using Women's History Sources in the Archives at the Library of Virginia

Census Records

The Virginia censuses for 1790, 1800, part of 1810, and 1890 have not survived. Those for 1810–1880 and 1900–1930 are available on microfilm. Beginning in 1850, the schedules list the names of all individuals in the household on the day the census was taken. Age, sex, race, occupation, and other types of information appear in various years.

Certain censuses posed specific questions beneficial to researching women. The 1900 and 1910 schedules contain information on the number of years a couple had been married, the number of children born to the woman, and how many children were living. The 1930 census recorded age at first marriage.

Special schedules may also be helpful. From 1850–1880, agricultural schedules described family farms. In 1880, a schedule of the “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes” listed the blind, deaf-mute, idiotic, insane, and permanently disabled in Virginia, whether they lived at home or were institutionalized.* Disabilities and their suspected causes were listed. Fannie Hickok lost most of her hearing after being kicked by a horse; Lucy Lumpkin was deaf-mute, as were her father and four brothers. The lives of those with mental disabilities were likewise recorded in detail. Sarah Davis and Mary Collins were both confined to locked cells at Western Lunatic Asylum; Collins was also restrained in a straitjacket.

In 1890, a special census of Union veterans and widows was taken, providing details about women’s lives in the postwar South. Mary Jennings, the widow of William Jennings, lived in James City County; she told the census taker that her husband had been a private in the Illinois Infantry, but could not recall any more details of his military service. “This woman,” he remarked on the schedule, “does not know anything.”