1850 Census of New Canaan, CT
Please read the introduction before you begin searching. Click here to begin browsing the census index pages one by one or click here to search for the name of your ancestor. If you find your ancestors in these pages, please email Barbara Kaye and I will try to identify the maiden name of the wife.
The 1850 census was the first to list the names of every person living in a household. Each household has a separate number and each family has a separate number. If a second family lives within the same household as another family, they will be listed under the household number of the first family living there. The census didn't often list middle initials in 1850. Subsequent census indexes did. Check the Stamford Families database online to see whether your ancestor is listed. This database shows parents, spouses and children, and for some, shows ancestors back to the original emmigrant ancestor with that surname.
Some of the original handwritten pages were very difficult to read. By checking against the names in cemetery inscriptions and vital records and subsequent censuses, I was able to make out almost all of the names contained on these pages. For the ones that I wasn't sure of, I added a question mark in brackets. I have left a blank if an entry was totally impossible to decipher.
Where the original records listed only the first surname and others in a household with that name are shown only with a ? sign, I have added surnames to each entry to aid in electronic searches. I also replaced other ditto signs with the actual word it represents. Where an obvious mistake in gender was made in the original, I have made corrections.
Certain names and occupations were abbreviated in the original. To avoid confusion, I have spelled out almost all of the abbreviated terms that I could identify.
When listing the birthplace of each person, it was often quite difficult to distinguish between New York (NY) and other states beginning with N, such as New Jersey or New Hampshire. When I couldn't decipher a state beginning with an N, I put NY as the state. The abbreviation used for Massachusetts appears to have been Ms, which is now used for the state of Mississippi. Whenever Ms appeared in the originals, I have substituted MA to avoid confusion.
Many first names have unconventional spellings in the original. For ease of electronic searches, instead of the spellings given, I have used a standardized modern spelling of the following first names: Hanford, Harvey, Jonas, Matthew, Thaddeus, Theodore, Adeline, Betsey; Bridget, Catherine, Emeline, Eunice, Harriet, Helen, Henrietta, Margaret and Mehitable; Frances for females; Francis for males. For entries with just initials, I have included the first name within brackets, if I knew it.
It seems as if the spelling of certain surnames was chosen arbitrarily by the census enumerator. I have changed the spellings to match the way those people spelled their own names according to their headstones. The names I have changed are Stevens, instead of Stephens, Hanford, instead of Handford, Clason, instead of Clawson. Other families spelled their names more than one way. For a list of common surnames in New Canaan and their alternative spellings, click on Spellings.
For some individuals, some facts, such as first name, middle initial, or place of birth, that change from one census year to the next, are in error. I have also found other entries that seem to be errors, such as a number indicating a new household that seems to be right in the middle of a family, or someone listed with the family next door. While it is not impossible to find someone living next door to their own family in another family's home, possibly as a servant, you should not eliminate the possibility that this is simply an error in transcribing the census from the cards submitted by the census enumerators.
Other reasons for errors include people lying about their age, illegible handwriting on census forms, people guessing others' ages or middle names, census enumerators unable to understand what people told them.
In 1850, when the railroad came to Fairfield County, Irish immigrants began to move in and many took jobs as live-in servants with the old families. For whatever reason, in many cases, the actual surnames of these servants were not given to the census enumerators and instead, the surname "Irish" was often substituted. When the name Irish is used, one must not assume that was the actual surname of the person, although it is possible. Also, the first name of Bridget was often used as a generic Irish first name when the actual name was not known. By the 1860 census, most Irish servants were listed by their actual names.
Many families had children as young as 8 or 10 living with them who were not related, probably as servants, although some young children did live with their grandparents or other relatives, if their parents were dead. Other unrelated people living with families were apprentices learning a trade or working for that family's business or farm, or an unrelated single or widowed woman working as a housekeeper.