The 1782 Census of Virginia

Do you learn something each and every time you research your genealogy? I try to look for or even stumble across something new each research day. And as I was re-doing the Virginia censuses this week, a new insight appeared–let me share this with you. If it is old news, consider it a short review. If it is new news, plan a chance to check it out then next time you work on your Virginia ancestry.

In her book, Louisa County, Virginia: Tithables and Census, 1743-1785, Rosalie Edith Davis includes this item on the Table of Contents–“Analysis of the Census of 1782.” My mind said, “what is the census of 1782?” I recalled that county tax rolls begin in 1782.

The Virginia General Assembly in May 1782, passed an Act to Ascertain the Number of People within this Commonwealth. In or before the first day of October, the counties were to be divided into precincts and appoint justices to take a list of the number of people, both white and black. (p. 145)

Louisa County had already divided the county into Hundreds in March of that year to comply with the Act for Taking a List of Certain Enumerated Articles. A hundred was an old English county division supposed to contain 100 families. The term was derived from one hundred hides of land or enough to support one hundred families, a hide of land ranging from sixty to one hundred acres.

The Louisa Court on 9 Sep 1782 appointed “the same Gentlemen to take the Number of Souls in this County that took the list of Certain Enumerated Articles Agreeable to an Act of Assembly only Col. White is to be added to Capt. Dabney in the 4th Hundred. “

Ms Bailey goes on to assess the completeness and value of this census. She then prints the lists turned in for each hundred on pages 145-154.

All of a sudden I remembered the differences in the 1790 Census Reconstruction based on tax rolls: Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Records of the State Enumerations: 1782-1785, Virginia. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1970. Reprint of the 1908 edition published by the Government Printing Office.

This is the record we all used before Ancestry. com. And I still use it with each and every research problem I study in this time period. To preview spelling variants of my surnames, to determine how common my names are in the Virginia counties, to look for clusterings of my names in specific townships or hundreds, and to prepare for searching in original records.

Some of the counties are reproduced from the 1782 Census! They list the head of the house, the number of white persons, and the number of blacks. These lists are dated 1782 and 1783. Some counties list the head of household, the number of white persons, the number of dwellings, and “other buildings” as if they used a format similar to the Direct Tax of 1798 collected by the new Federal Government in each state. And some counties record varying information taken from tax enumerations like age, occupation, number of horses, cattle, and billiard tables. >And now you and I know the reason the data is differ in each list.

A supplementary volume was compiled by Augusta B. Fothergill and John Mark Naugle, Virginia Tax Payers, 1782-1787: Other than those Published by the United States Census Bureau. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1971. These county lists include white polls, slaves, and county in alphabetical order for the whole state.

A third project, and the most thorough, complete work is Nettie Schreiner-Yantis, The 1787 Census of Virginia. 3 Vols. This county-by-county listing includes all of the 1787 enumerations, with an every-name index.

Using these three Virginia tools as a unit, I can often find missing or lost ancestors and a different county to search!

The original schedules of the 1782 census enumerations, and the personal property tax rolls are available to verify correct readings of handwritten and often misspelled names. Check the Family History Library Catalog online at for call numbers. The tax rolls for 1782 and the 1782 census enumeration lists are two separate and distinct records. They may have been collected at the same time, or were created from one list, but they are two records. Be sure that you check both of them for your ancestors. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.

PS My high-speed internet server says my internet is working. So I’ll check it out quickly. Keep your fingers crossed that he is right. For once I got someone who knew what to do about it. Been trying for longer than a month! and borrowing computers.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply