52 Documents in 52 Weeks #18 – John Joseph Repsher’s 1880 Census

Person of Interest: John Joseph Repsher
Relationship: Paternal 2nd great grandfather

Source Citation: 1880 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Jackson Corner, ED 220, p. 5 (penned), p. 290 (stamped) dwelling 36, family 40, John Repsher; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 April 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1157.

Document Description: These documents are part of the Tenth Census of the United States which was taken in 1880. It is the tenth census taken since 1790. The U.S. census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The U.S. Census Bureau is responsible for taking the censuses. After 72 years (and not before owing to privacy reasons), the records are released to the public by the National Archives and Records Administration.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides the interested researcher a great overview of each census. In the 1880 overview, we find that Rutherford B. Hayes was president, that the act authorizing the 1880 census gave supervision of the enumeration to a body of officers, known as supervisors of the census, who were specifically chosen for work on the census, that the superintendent of the census and all supervisors were to be presidential appointees and were subject to Senate confirmation and that the terms of both were to expire when the census results were compiled and published.

According to the 1880 overview site, the details of the enumeration were this:

“Each supervisor was responsible for recommending the organization of his district for enumeration, choosing enumerators for the district and supervising their work, reviewing and transmitting the returns from the enumerators to the central census office, and overseeing the compensation for enumerators in each district.

“The census act required each enumerator ‘to visit personally each dwelling house in his sub-division, and each family therein, and each individual living out of a family in any place of abode, and by inquiry made of the head of such family, or of the member there of deemed most credible and worthy of trust, or of such individual living out of a family, to obtain each and every item of information and all the particulars.’ In case no one was available at a family’s usual place of abode, the enumerator was directed by the law ‘to obtain the required information, as nearly as may be practicable, from the family or families, or person or persons, living nearest to such place of abode.’

“The census act also provided for the collection of detailed data on the condition and operation of railroad corporations, incorporated express companies, and telegraph companies, and of life, fire, and marine insurance companies (using Schedule No.4 – Social Statistics). Fines were to be imposed on officials of ‘every corporation…who shall…willfully neglect or refuse to give true and complete answers to any inquiries authorized by this act.’

“In addition, the superintendent of census was required to collect and publish statistics of the population, industries, and resources of Alaska, with as much detail as was practical. An enumeration was also made of all untaxed Indians within the jurisdiction of the United States.

“The 1880 decennial census was taken on five schedules: Population, Mortality, Agriculture, Social Statistics, and Manufacturing.”

Both Ancestry.com (fee site) and FamilySearch.org (free) offers digitized copies of the census and are searchable by name. The History and Growth of the United States Census: 1790 – 1890 was a document prepared for the Senate Committee on the Census in 1900 and as written by Carroll D. Wright, the Commissioner of Labor, and William C. Hunt, Chief Statistician of the 12th census. If you’re into statistics or reading up on the historical background of the censuses, this is a great document to dig into.

Documents Scan/Transcription: Numbers relate to columns on the population schedule

Notes found either at the top or the bottom of the schedule
Note A. – The Census Year  begins June 1, 1879 and ends May 31, 1880
Note B. – All persons will be included in the Enumeration who were living on the 1st day of June, 1880. No others will. children BORN SINCE June 1, 1880, will be OMITTED. Members of Families who have DIED SINCE June 1, 1880, will be INCLUDED
Note C. – Questions Nos. 13, 14, 22 and 23 are not to be asked in respect to persons under 10 years of age.
Note D. – In making entries in columns 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 to 23, an affirmative mark only will be used-thus /., except in the case of divorced persons, column 11, when the letter “D” is to be used.
Note E. – Question No. 12 will only be asked in cases where an affirmative answer has been given to either question 10 or to question 11.
Note F. – Question No. 14 will only be asked in cases when a gainful occupation has been reported in column 13.
Note G. – In column 7 an abbreviation in the name of the month may be used, as Jan., Apr., Dec.

Page 5 Header
State: Pennsylvania; County: Monroe; Inhabitants in: Jackson Corners; S.D. No.: 5; E.D. No.: 220; Enumerated by me on the 10th day of June 1880; Enumerator: Thomas D. Metzgar; penned Page No.: 5; stamped Page No.: 290.

Page 5 Detail
lines 24-27, John, Caroline, Emma and Mary E. [respectively with ; between]

Place of Abode
Street Name: [blank]
House Number: [blank]
1. Dwelling number in order of visitation: 36
2. Family number in order of visitation: 40

Household Data
3. Name: Repsher John; —- Caroline; —- Emma; —- Mary E.
4. Color: W; W; W; W
5. Sex: M; F; F; F
6. Age at last birthday prior to 01 June 1880: 25; 23; 3; 1
7. If born within census year, month of birth: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
8. Relationship to head of household: [blank]; wife, daughter, daughter

Civil Condition
9. Single: [blank]; [blank]; /; /
10. Married: /; /; [blank]; [blank]
11. Widowed, Divorced d.: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
12. Married during census year:  [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

13. Profession, occupation or trade: Laborer; keeping house; [blank]; [blank]
14. Number of month unemployed during census year: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

15. Is person sick or incapacitated on the day of the enumeration: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
16. Blind: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
17. Deaf and Dumb: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
18. Idiotic: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
19: Insane: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
20. Maimed, crippled, bedridden or otherwise disabled: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

21. Attend school within the census year:  [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
22. Cannot read: [blank]; [blank]; /; /
23. Cannot write: [blank]; [blank]; /; /

24. Place of birth: Pa; ‘”; “; ”
25. Place of birth of father: Pa; ‘”; “; ”
26. Place of birth of mother: Pa; ‘”; “; “

Analysis: The above listings/transcriptions are a bit hard to read, I admit it. So why go through the pain of typing it all out? It forced me to look at every single box and tick mark and code and notation. So, let’s put the above in a more user-friendly, narrative format:

On 01 June 1880, John Repsher (25) was living with his wife Caroline (23) and two young daughters, Emma (3) and Mary E. (1). The family was living in Jackson Corners, Monroe County, Pennsylvania  when Thomas D. Metzgar arrived to enumerator them on 10 June 1880. Mr. Metzgar was working in his Supervisor’s District of 5 which oversaw Enumeration District 220. In order of visitation, the family was labeled as living in dwelling #37 and as family #40.

John was working as a laborer and Caroline was keeping house. John and Caroline were listed as married and their two daughters as single. All were listed as being born in Pennsylvania as were each of the individuals’ parents. The family was healthy in that none of the columns for blindness, deaf and dumbness, idiocy, insanity, or disability were checked. The census indicated that both John and Caroline could read and write.

This is a fairly straightforward census with John and Caroline just beginning what would evenutally turn out to be 14-child family. The 1880 census tells the reader the specific relationships within the family group, so no guessing is necessary. Nothing pops out as being odd with this family. However, it doesn’t hurt to go look at the enumerator instructions to see how things were to be reported. The IPUMS, which stands for the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, website has a handy place to look up all enumerator instructions for the 1880 census. Some of the instructions found there include:

  • The word family, for the purposes of the census, includes persons living alone, as previously described, equally with families in the ordinary sense of that term, and also all larger aggregations of people having only the tie of a common roof and table. A hotel, with all its inmates, constitutes but one family within the meaning of this term. A hospital, a prison, an asylum is equally a family for the purposes of the census. On the other hand, the solitary inmate of a cabin, a loft, or a room finished off above a store constitutes a family in the meaning of the census act. In the case, however, of tenement houses and of the so-called “fiats” of the great cities, as many families are to be recorded as there are separate tables.
  • It is desirable that the children of the family proper should follow in the order of their ages, as will naturally be the case.
  • Color.-It must not be assumed that, where nothing is written in this column, “white” is to be understood. The column is always to be filled. Be particularly careful in reporting the class mulatto. The word is here generic, and includes quadroons, octoroons, and all persons having any perceptible trace of African blood. Important scientific results depend upon the correct determination of this class in schedules 1 and 5.
  • The term “housekeeper” will be reserved for such persons as receive distinct wages or salary for the service. Women keeping house for their own families or for themselves, without any other gainful occupation, will be entered as “keeping house.” Grown daughters assisting them will be reported without occupation.
  • The organization of domestic service has not proceeded so far in this country as to render it worth while to make distinctions in the character of work. Report all as “domestic servants.”
  • Regarding occupation, use the word “huckster” in all cases where it applies. [Huckster is defined as a person who sells small items, either door-to-door or from a stall or small store and of which the goods may be of questionable value.]


Nothing unusual or questionable popped out at me in the analysis of this 1880 census for John and Caroline Repsher. I did find them with their two eldest daughters, Emma and Mary E., and this corroborates other family history information. It is interesting that all the health questions were included but the family seems to be healthy. I think the enumerator instructions were more entertaining this time than the analysis!


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