Researchers often overlook the U.S. Census Bureau’s nineteenth century agriculture census; however it contains a wealth of information pertaining to individual farmers’ businesses. The Society’s Newspaper library holds the microfilm copies of Missouri’s agricultural censuses. The agriculture census schedules usually given to all free persons who produced goods valued at $100 or more, but census-takers often overlooked this rule, allowing farmers producing good of lesser value to also provide information.
The census offers an array of data concerning an individual farmer’s operation and production, including the value and acreage of the farm and whether it was owned or rented. It also provides details about the number of livestock owned, production of grain and other crops, and use of machinery. Each category is split into subdivisions; for instance, the livestock category is subdivided into horses, dairy and non-dairy cows, swine, and sheep.
Searching the agriculture census schedules is similar to searching the population schedules. Both are arranged by county and township, and the family number found in the population census corresponds to the family number in the agriculture census.
The agriculture census can be useful for both historical and genealogical researchers. For historians, it provides details about farming trends, types of produce and livestock, and the economic status of farmers. A genealogist can potentially find detailed accounts of an ancestor’s farming operation. Regardless of one’s research goals, the census provides insight into mid and late-nineteenth-century agricultural practices and economy.