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1870 Census Transcribing Help
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To transcribe the 1870 Census, you will use either CART (Census Abstract Retrieval Tool) or a spreadsheet template. Excel or MSWorks templates are available for IBM compatible PCs, and Excel or Clarisworks/Appleworks are available for MAC users. Your Census Project State Coordinator will need to know what spreadsheet software and which version you have and whether you have an IBM-type PC or a MAC. Email your Census Project State Coordinator if you have not received instructions for where to download the CART software or if you did not receive a spreadsheet template with your assignment notification.  Alternate email for templates:

You MUST use the 1870 census year template if you aren't using CART. The template columns should match the columns on the census page from which you are transcribing.

You will need to copy EVERYTHING that is on your census.

1870 tidbits - This is the first year that information about the birthplace of parents was recorded. The enumeration also included supplemental schedules for persons who died during the year.

How to Transcribe the 1870 Census Data

When you start CART for the first time, an "About Cart" message will appear.
After reading the message, click the [OK] button.
Another message box will appear with:
"No Census Abstracts are in the data base. Use the New or Import option to create an abstract."
Click the [OK] button.

To create a NEW census file:
On the Menu-Bar, click "Census Abstract"
On the drop-down menu-list, click "Create New".
Fill-in the three fields on the top row for the State, County, and Year.

    NOTE:  If your census is large and you will be creating more than one file for this census (by division, township, or whatever subdivisions this county is divided into) you can use the OPTIONAL field "Split County Name (Optional):" and type a township (or whatever) name and then later you will be able to add another separate file for this same county.

Click the [OK] button to create a new file.

Printed at the top of the 1870 census page is:
Inhabitants in ______ in the county of ______, State of _______ Enumerated by me on the _____ day of ______1870. Post Office_______ - ___________Asst. Marshall.

The Division or District you will enter is named after "Inhabitants in". 
Not all censuses have Division or District entered and some are unreadable.

When you complete the transcription of a Division/District, we recommend that you send it to your proofreader so the proofreading can be started while you continue to work on the rest of your census.  That way, it can be placed online as "partial" while the transcription is still in progress.

If you haven't found a proofreader yet, please read the Proofreading Decisions, and then visit the Proofreaders Exchange and sign up now.

When your transcription has been proofread,
follow the Submission Instructions.

The CART software will automatically fill in the State and County fields by repeating the information you entered in the "Create New Census Abstract" dialog-box. This will carry over for every record/person you enter.

Enter the Microfilm Reel number of your census. The 1850 Microfilm Reel numbers all start with M593- followed by another number. Check the Assignment Web Pages to verify the film number of your transcription.

Enter the Enumerator's Name and the Enumeration Date in the CART "Ref:" field located at the top of the CART screen by the Reel, County, State fields. It is only necessary to enter the information on the first record of a new page and does not need to be duplicated on every record on the page. Sometimes there is enough room left over in the Reference field for the Handwritten Page# or additional information about the census District that does not fit in the Division field.

After the 1870 enumerations were completed, the pages were bound into books with two pages facing each other. A page number was stamped into the upper right hand corner, leaving the other page blank. The census years that have the page number stamped on every other page are now known as A and B pages. Enter the STAMPED page number in the Page # field and when you enter it, add an "a" immediately following the page number for the stamped page. Then on the following unstamped page, use the same page number as the previous stamped page except add a "b" immediately following the page number.

    Transcription Example:    First Page: 438a
    Second page: 438b
There may be more than one number on each census page. If you find two stamped page numbers on a census, (1) check the State/Year Index to see which number was used, or (2) if transcribing from the SK Publication book or CD, follow the numbering used in the SK Publication Index or CD.

A handwritten page number, in addition to the stamped page number, may have been written on each census page by the photographers who microfilmed the census. Do not be concerned if these handwritten page numbers are not in sequential order. Enter the Handwritten Page# into the Reference field, or if you are using a spreadsheet enter it in the REMARKS column for the first name on the page that does not already have something in the Remarks column.

    Transcription Example:  Handwritten page # 45   -or-   H-W Pg: 45

CART automatically increments the Line # field for each new record. The only time you should have to change the Line#  is if the page stops before line 40 or if several lines are skipped. If the entire page is not filled out, and the last number stops before line 40, please type a comment in the Remarks field of the last individual recorded on the page.

    Transcription Example:  Lines 12-40 were not entered by the enumerator

On the next record you can manually change the Page# field to the next sequential page number, and the Line# field to 1. Occasionally you will find that the enumerator added an extra line. If the enumerator put two names on the same line, add an "a" immediately following the Line# for the top name and a "b" immediately following the Line# for the bottom name. Most 1870 censuses are numbered from line 1 to line 40.

Enter these numbers as they change. Do not worry if the enumerator skips numbers or goes backward with his numbers. If the numbers aren't in the correct sequence, please add a comment about it in the Remarks field to indicate that you did not make a mistake with the numbering.

Occasionally a word will be entered in these columns instead of a number. An example would be the word "Jail". If you see something like this, enter the word in the column it appears if it is a small word. Also, at times they may write sideways that this is a boarding house or tavern house, if they do that, you can enter in the Remarks field, that "boarding house is written in for lines X to X".

Note for CART software: to increment the Dwelling and Family Number fields by one number each you can use the CART Shortcut key [Ctrl + i ].

Names may appear on the census as "John Doe", but you will enter the last name (Doe) in the Last Name field and the first name (John) will be entered into the First Name field.

  • Do not abbreviate a name if the enumerator wrote out the entire name and do not spell out the full name when he abbreviated it. If you see Wm, enter Wm. If you see William, enter William.

  • Do not correct the enumerator's spelling errors. Even if it is your own family and the name is terribly misspelled, enter it exactly as it appears on the census.
  • When the enumerator used "ditto", ditto marks ( " ), or the word "do", please enter the name that the ditto mark represents. See example dittos marks the enumerator may have used.
  • If a name was abbreviated, and the final letter is a little raised, add an apostrophe in place of the omitted letters in the name.

      Transcription Example:  Thos -  you would enter: Tho's
  • Questionable letters in a name should be indicated by an asterisk * and you may want to put a note in the Remarks field of that line to note that some letters are hard to read or unreadable.

      Transcription Example - LAST NAME: D*e     FIRST NAME: Jo*n
  • Titles (ie: Jr., Sr., Dr.) are to be entered at the end of the person's first name(s).

      Transcription Example - LAST NAME: Doe     FIRST NAME: John Sr.
  • Enter NS (no surname) *ONLY* for names such as:
    • Brother Ignatius
    • Sister Mary
    • American Indian Names (Running Doe)
    • Servants (John A man of color)
    * Look closely for surname ditto marks before you use NS. See these examples.

Enter the age seen. IF you can not read the age or if there is no age listed, enter the letter "U" and add a note in the Remarks field about it not being there or being unreadable. If you find two children with the same age listed, note it in the Remarks field. This is just a "silent" way of saying you didn't make a typo and yes there are two children the same age in this household. BEFORE you type in "twins", are you absolutely sure they are twins and not cousins being raised in the same household because of deceased parents?

The ages for the infants should be entered just as the enumerator wrote them. If the enumerator wrote a fraction, such as 4/12 (representing four months), enter the fraction. If he wrote mos. or months after the number or fraction, then type that same information. If you are transcribing to a spreadsheet template and your software insists on converting the fraction ages to a date, simply type an apostrophe ( ' ) immediately before the fraction to force the spreadsheet to treat the following information as text.

    Example:  '4/12

Entered as M or F. If the sex was not recorded or if it is unreadable, enter the letter U and add a note in the Remarks field about it being unreadable or not being entered. Occasionally the enumerator recorded the age and sex in the reversed fields. If you run across a record like that, enter them in the correct places and add a note about it in the Remarks field for that individual. IF you find a Nancy marked as a male or a William marked as a female, please enter the sex as you see it, but make a note about it in the Remarks field to let others know that you did not make a typo.

Enter what is listed. The 1870 options were W (white), B (black), M (mulatto), C (Chinese) or I (Indian). Often the only time a letter is noted is for someone who is not white. If there is NO entry, leave the field blank.

Enter as you see it spelled. This site, Old Time Jobs, might help you to figure out some of those occupations. The Occupation might be the first field that you start seeing "ditto", ditto marks ( " ), or the word "do". Do NOT use ditto marks. Enter the occupation that the ditto mark represents.

Enter ONLY numbers. Do NOT use a comma ( , ) or a dollar sign ( $ ). If you see 15,000 or $15,000, enter it as 15000.

Enter the Place of Birth as you see it spelled. Do NOT correct spelling or abbreviation errors. The enumerator may have used the 2 letter code for a state, or he may have written the whole word out, or he may have written his own abbreviation for a state or place name. New York can be found as NY, New York and N.York. If only one letter was entered, that is all you can enter too and note it in the Remarks field. Example, a birthplace was listed as only "O", we do not know if that means Ohio, Oregon, or Oklahoma. Enter only what you see.

Often these were answered with a Y for yes or a " / ". If you see any mark, enter the letter X.

This will only be filled in for babies who were born within the past year.  IF the enumerator made a mark in that column, then enter the letter X.

This will only be filled in for the couples who married within the last year.  IF the enumerator made a mark, then enter the letter X.

This field will be marked if they have attended school in the past year.  If the enumerator made a mark, then enter the letter X.

This question pertained to people over 20 years of age, but occasionally you will see an 18 year old who has answered it as well.  If the field is marked on your census, then enter the letter X.

On your census, instead of a mark you may see one of those words or more written in. There is not room in the CART field to type in the word(s). IF the census has a word, then enter the letter X in the field and add a note in the Remarks field about what is written on the census.  A Remarks field example might be: "Deaf and Dumb written in".

Male Citizen eligible to vote. This may be marked with a Y for Yes, an X, a dash, or a check. IF it is marked on your census, then enter the letter X.

Male citizen denied the right to vote. This may be marked with a Y for Yes, an X, a dash, or a check. IF it is marked on your census, then enter the letter X.

More CART Tips

The Remarks Field
Use this field to record additional information about the Census Record. If a person is marked as Blind, you will want to note that "the word blind is written in", or if you think a name is misspelled (Rachael), instead of saying that it IS misspelled, you may want to say something like "Perhaps enumerator meant Rachel". You do not want to say that it is misspelled, because someone could come along and take your word as written in stone.

If the enumerator has written boarding house, tavern house, hotel along the side, you will want to note it in the Remarks field. Anything you think might be important, note here. You will have to limit and possibly abbreviate your words to fit the limited field length.

Shortcut Keys
Each drop-down list on the CART menu-bar lists the Shortcut Keys on the right side of the drop-down list for those items that have Shortcut keys.   Following are a few of the Shortcut Keys:

Ditto (copy field after add new): [F2]   - - this shortcut repeats the information from the previous record (for this field) into the new record.  This is most useful on the Birthplace field.

Increment Dwelling & Family #: [Ctrl + i ] - - this shortcut increases the Dwelling and Family numbers by one number each.

Add New  [Ctrl + a ]  this shortcut will start a new record so you can keep your hands on the keyboard and not have to click the [Add New] button with the mouse.

There are more shortcuts that you might want to review by checking the drop-down lists on the menu-bar.

Adding a Skipped Record
CART will not allow you insert a record in the middle of a file, but you can add a missing record at the end of the file by using the [Add New] button. Make sure you enter the correct Page# and Line# for the new record. The new record will be placed in the proper sequence with the other records the next time you close and restart CART. (CART sorts the entire file by Page# and then Line# within Page# every time a file is opened).  The remaining line numbers on the page with the missing record may need adjusted and you will need to manually do this for each of the lines.  Also check the Line numbers on the following Page to make sure they are ok.

It is a good idea to get into the practice of checking the preprinted line number with the Line# field for that last record when you finish entering all the records for a given page .  Then if you've missed entering a record for this page it is much easier to add it now rather than later.

In CART's first (main) screen the toolbar has the word EXPORT, click on it, then export as DBF. Export to another area on your hard drive or to a diskette. If the DBF file gets too big, use a ZIP program to zip it down so that it will fit onto the diskette. (Approximately 2950 names equals a 1 meg dbf file, but this varies depending on the # of remarks you have entered, amount of info, etc..)

CART File Management
More information about Exporting, Importing, and Backing up a file.

CART - Printing

Template Tips

The Remarks column
It is the right-most column on your template. Please use the remarks field to enter everything on the census that needs to be brought to the attention of a researcher or any other information you feel is important. (ie: any additional writing on the census; if a name is hard to read or unreadable; a disruption in the numbering sequence; etc.)  If the comment is general information about a group of pages or the entire census, type your information in a separate worksheet or file and reference the page and line number so researchers will know what line you are referring to. When you submit your census transcription to the Census Project, you can include the extra comments file at that same time. If you do not have a Remarks column on your template, you may add one in on the far right.

Freeze the Template Column Headers
Using Excel, you can freeze the column headings of the first page, and several of the left columns. The frozen areas will remain visible while the entered data scrolls underneath the headers and off the screen. It is much easier to enter the census information when you can see the column header and row name for the line you are entering.

  • To freeze the top horizontal header rows, select the row below where you want the split to occur.

  • To freeze the left vertical columns, select the column to the right of where you want the split to occur.

  • To freeze both the horizontal headers, and the vertical columns click the cell below and to the right of where you want the split to appear.

    Note: If you move the top census information block off the screen before you do step 2, it will leave more screen room for the rows you are entering. To do this, use the horizontal scroll bar and the up/down triangle pointer buttons at the top and bottom of the scroll bar and scroll so that you see only the column header at the top of the screen and not the 6 or 7 rows that contain the census info.

  • On the menu-bar, click "Window".
    On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Freeze Panes".

  • Later if you want to undo the frozen panes:
    On the menu-bar, click "Window".
    On the "Window" drop-down menu list, click "Unfreeze Panes".

To make a backup copy of your census file, after finishing for the day and saving the file to your hard drive, do a "File, SAVE AS" and save it somewhere else on your computer OR on a diskette. If the file gets too big for a diskette, use a ZIP Program to zip it so that it will fit onto the disk. Better to be safe than to lose all of your hard work from a computer problem.

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