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1880 Census Transcribing Help
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You will use a spreadsheet template to transcribe the 1880 Census. Excel or MSWorks spreadsheet 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 did not receive a spreadsheet template with your assignment notification.  Alternate email for templates:

You MUST use the correct census year template for the year you are transcribing because the columns vary for each census year. 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. 

1880 Census Tidbits

The Census Year began June 1, 1879 and ended May 31, 1880. All persons were included in the Enumeration who living on the 1st day of June, 1880. Children born since June 1, 1880 were omitted. The questions about occupation, number of months unemployed, and can they read or write, were not asked about the children under age 10. Additional new questions asked this year included the relationship to head of household, the marital status, and place of birth for each parent. The 1880 enumeration included a supplemental schedule for persons who died during the year, deceased since June 1, 1880 are included.

How to Enter the Census Data into the 1880 Spreadsheet Template

Enter the specific census information in the fill-in block.

  • Census Year
  • Microfilm Reel # - The 1880 Microfilm Reel numbers all start with T9- followed by another number. Check the Assignment Web Pages to verify the film number of your transcription.
  • State
  • County or Parish
  • Supervisor's District
  • Enumeration District
  • City, Ward, Township, or any other named area division
  • Enumerator's name
  • Your name/email as the transcriber
  • Your proofreader's name/email
  • The source of your census material (CD, microfilm, etc.)

Printed at the top of the 1880 census page is:
Page No. ________ (Note: this is the Hand-written Page#)
Supervisor's Dist. No. ________
Enumeration Dist. No. ________
Schedule 1. Inhabitants in ________, in the county of ________, state of ________ enumerated by me on the _____ day of June, 1880.

On the underline after "Inhabitants in" - the city, ward, town, township, or any other named area division was written in. Enter the information as you see it. Not all censuses have a 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 2nd part will have abbreviated column headings for each of the columns in the 1880 census plus a Stamped-Page#, Line#, Enum/Distr#, and Hand-Written Page#, as the first several columns, and Remarks column as the last column.

If your template does not have a separate column for Enum/Date, either insert a column for this purpose to the left of the REMARKS column or type the Enum-Date in the REMARKS column of the first name on the page that does not already have something in the Remarks column.

    Transcription Example:  Enum-Date: June 1, 1880

The stamped page number is usually in the upper-right area of the page and on every other page.
  The pages are also stamped with the letters A-B-C-D, with the A and C being on the same side of the page with the stamped Page Number.  The B and D is stamped in the upper-left area of the pages that do not have a stamped Page Number.  For the B-page, use the same stamped number as the A-page.  For the D-page, use the same stamped number as the C-page.  Enter the stamped page number in the Stamped-Pg# column and add the stamped letter immediately following the page number.

    Transcription Example:    First Page: 438a
    Second page: 438b
    Third page: 439c
    Fourth page: 439d
PAGE NUMBERS (Hand-written)
A second page number will be hand-written in the upper-left corner of the page.  This number is usually sequential starting with Page No. 1 for each Enumeration District.   Type the Hand-written page number in the HW-PG# column.

If your template is not pre-numbered with the Line Numbers, enter the line numbers for each line that you type in.  Depending on what spreadsheet software you use, there are ways to make it number for you by scrolling and holding down buttons. See the -help- file for your software. If your census starts on line 2, then you do the same, make it match the actual census as best as possible.  The 1880 census page has lines numbered 1 through 50.

Enter what you see, if they have filled this in. The street name was more likely filled in when the census was taken in a city and not a rural area.   NOTE:  You will need to repeat the Street Name for each person the street encompasses.  DO NOT merge the cells and turn the letters sideways.  The text files that are created from your spreadsheet cannot handle sideways text.

Enter what you see, if they have filled this in. The house # was more likely filled in when the census was taken in a city and not a rural area. 

Enter these numbers as they change and repeat the appropriate entries for each individual entered. Do not worry if the enumerator skipped numbers or numbered backwards. 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 you will see two or more Family Numbers with the same Dwelling Number. Enter what you see.

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".

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 what is listed. The 1880 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.

SEX (5)
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 wrong 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.  Remarks Example:  Sex as recorded by Enumerator

AGE (6)
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 your spreadsheet software insists on converting the fraction ages to a date, either format the cell (or the entire column) as "Text" before typing the age, or simply type an apostrophe ( ' ) immediately before the fraction to force the spreadsheet to treat the following information as text.

    Example:  '4/12

This will only be filled in for babies. The birth MONTH is recorded in this field if the baby was under one year of age. IF the enumerator only made a mark or or a Y for yes in that column, then enter the letter X, but hopefully most of them wrote in the birth month or an abbreviation of the month. Enter what you see.

Enter the person's relationship to the head of the household as seen on the census. You could see self, wife, daughter, son, step son, step daughter, granddaughter, grandson, mother, father, uncle, cousin, brother in law, sister in law, brother, sister, etc.. Enter what is written in. If nothing is written in, leave it blank.

Was the individual single? IF the enumerator made a mark or entered a Y for yes, then enter the letter X.

Was the individual married? IF the enumerator made a mark or entered a Y for yes, then enter the letter X.

Was the individual widowed or divorced? The enumerator might have entered the letter W for widowed, or the letter D for divorced, or he may have just made a mark in the column. IF he entered W or D, then do the same. IF he just made a mark or answered with a Y for yes, then enter the letter X.

The enumerator may have entered the marriage month or an abbreviation of the month. Enter what you see. IF the enumerator only made a mark or wrote the letter Y for yes, then enter the letter X.

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 the number seen. 

HEALTH, if sick or diabled (15)
Enter what you see on the census. If the enumerator enter the word "sick" or "disabled", or specifically named an illness, then you will do the same. If he only made a mark, then enter the letter X.

BLIND (16), DEAF (17), IDIOTIC (18), INSANE (19), and MAIMED, CRIPPLED or otherwise disabled (20)
Enter the letter X in the appropriate column marked or enter the word(s) the enumerator wrote in.

This field will be marked if the individual attended school in the past census year. Often these were answered with a Y for yes. If you see a Y for yes, enter the letter X instead.

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.

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 except when the Enumerator used "Ditto", ditto marks ("), or the word "do", in this case enter the birthplace that the ditto mark represents.

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 you want to make is specific for one name or a group of names, put it in the Remarks field.  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.

How to 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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