Ask DGS – 1790 Census for Delaware

Reader ‘TB’ writes:

Are any substitutes for the 1790 census of the state available online?

If not, are any available elsewhere?

1790 CensusThe short answer is that nothing is available online for this period.  As most Delaware researchers know, the 1790 census schedules for Delaware and a number of other states were lost.  The popular story is that they were burned in Washington DC by the British during the War of 1812, although there is another theory.  In any case, the records are unavailable and all we have is summary data.  The summary data shows that in Delaware in 1790, there were 59,096 1 individuals recorded in the census for Delaware, of which 11,783 were white males of 16 years and upward, including heads of households.

At least two attempts have been made to reconstruct this census using other sources, primarily tax records.

Tax Assessment and Census ListThe first is Delaware 1782 Tax Assessment and Census Lists, by Ralph D. Nelson Jr., Catherine B. Nelson, Thomas P. Doherty, Mary Fallon Richards, and John C. Richards; Delaware Genealogical Society, 1994.  This publication contains data abstracted from 25 tax lists and 7 census lists, covers 8,670 tax assessments and 2,652 households. This is available for purchase on CD in our online store.  The hard copy is out of print, but can be purchased from Amazon or AbeBooks, and is available in local libraries.

The second is Reconstructed 1790 census of Delaware by Leon DeValinger Jr.; National Genealogical Society Bookstore, 1962.  This book provides a list of tax payers from 1790 or the closest year for which data was available, and lists around 8,000 people.  This can be purchased from Colonial Roots Books or from from Heritage Books.

If anyone is aware of other sources, please let us know.

  1. The original number was 59094, but 2 were later added due to an addition error in the original. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1790_United_States_Census
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