Subdivision 11

Unlike Area 51 or District 9, Subdivision 11 in Sussex County, Delaware, has no known association with aliens or UFOs.  It does, however, post a bit of a mystery and contain a large number of my relatives in the 1850 US census.

In the 1840 census in Sussex County, enumeration was by hundred.  In the 1860 census, enumeration was by hundred.  But in the 1850 census, enumeration was by hundred and by a geographic area referred to as the 11th Subdivision.  What was this exactly and why was it created for this one census? Google search and a review of 1850 census turned up nothing useful.  There is plenty of speculation about Subdivision 11 in the genealogy forums, but nothing concrete.  Being someone who likes to trace the movement of my ancestors over time, I find Subdivision 11  a bit irritating.

Comparing the 1850 census geography to a list of the hundreds in Sussex County and their year of establishment does provided a partial answer to this mystery.  The table below shows this comparison.

1850-HundredsThe ‘1850 Census’ column identifies those hundreds enumerated in the census and we see that six of the hundreds are unaccounted for.  However, three of these were not established until after 1850. We can infer that the remaining three – Broad Creek, Little Creek and Northwest Fork – made up the 11th Subdivision in 1850. This makes sense to me.  My 3rd Great Grandfather appears in Broad Creek in 1840 and 1860 so it stands to reason that he would have lived in the Broad Creek portion of the 11th Subdivision in 1850.

That answers the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’ of this subdivision.  As part of my day job, I’ve worked with census data quite a bit over the years, and I know that census boundaries are adjusted from time to time in an attempt to even out the population included within the areas.  Areas with a lot of population growth are sometimes split and areas with low growth sometimes combined.  Looking at the map below of the hundreds in Sussex County*, we see that these three hundreds were in the western and least populated portion of the county.  That’s my best guess as to why the 11th Subdivision was created – to make the enumeration workload more comparable to that of the more heavily populated eastern hundreds in the county.


If anyone reading this has more information or a better theory, I’d love to hear from you.

*This map fragment is courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection, which will be the subject of a future article.

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One Response to Subdivision 11

  1. Joe says:

    As a transplant to Delaware, the Hundreds are confusing enough. Thanks for clarifying this unique designation.

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