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1790 Virginia Census (VA-NOTES)

The original manuscript schedules for the First and Second United States Census Returns for Virginia, taken in 1790 and 1800, were destroyed when the British Army occupied Washington, D.C., in August 1814. The schedules, which named the heads of households and contained the number of inhabitants in each household, were lost, and only published abstracts containing the number of inhabitants of each county survive.

In 1908 the Bureau of the Census published a twelve-volume compilation of names of heads of households from the surviving incomplete records. The confusingly titled Virginia volume, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States taken in the year 1790: Records of the State Enumerations, 1782-1785: Virginia, is indexed and has been reprinted several times. It was prepared from an incomplete collection of surviving manuscript lists of heads of households that the government of Virginia compiled in 1782, 1783, 1784, and 1785. Those Lists of Inhabitants, which cover only thirty-nine counties and one city, are in the Library of Virginia and have been filmed on Miscellaneous Microfilm Reel number 1263. Copies of the lists for the City of Richmond, the earliest of which was included in the Heads of Families, are now separately filed with the early local government records of the city in the Library of Virginia.

To supplement the Heads of Families, Augusta B. Fothergill and John M. Naugle compiled and published Virginia Tax Payers, 1782-87 Other Than Those Published by the United States Census Bureau (Richmond, 1940), which has gone through several reprint editions. Virginia Tax Payers contains lists of taxpaying heads of households for thirty-five counties not covered in Heads of Households. Their principal source for each county is the earliest surviving state personal property tax list. The personal property tax returns, most of which begin in 1782, are also in the Library of Virginia and have been microfilmed.

Netti Schreiner-Yantis and Florence Speakman Love subsequently compiled and published The 1787 Census of Virginia: An Accounting of the Name of Every White Male Tithable Over 21 Years, three volumes (Springfield, Va., 1987), which was also issued in a series of individual county volumes. Their principal source was not a census but the 1787 state personal property tax lists. It is the only compilation of eighteenth-century Virginia taxpayers from one uniform source.

There are no proper pre-1800 census returns for Virginia. Researchers who use Heads of Families, Virginia Tax Payers, and The 1787 Census of Virginia are advised to consult the Virginia laws to learn what information the lists contain and do not contain. For the 1782, 1783, 1784, and 1785 enumerations, see Hening's Statutes at Large, 11:40-41, 108, 193, 415-417. For the first of the Virginia personal property tax laws, adopted in 1782, see Hening's Statutes at Large, 11:112-129. The 1787 personal property tax law is in Hening's Statutes at Large, 12:243-255.