An 1810 Massachusetts census records discovery came about from a single Instagram post. Long missing from census records, the Essex County census ledger recently arrived at the National Archives in Washington. It was only 221 years late.

Black Family History Research + Social Media = 1810 Census

A sharp-eyed National Archives staff member read a February Instagram post from the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) Library. This post (below) noted the importance of connecting archives, genealogy, and Black family history research.

But it was the example, taken from an 1810 Essex County census ledger at PEM, that immediately captured attention. Jack Kabrel, a National Archives specialist with the Permanent Records Capture team, alerted his colleagues.

1810 Massachusetts census records discovery

pemlibrary’s Instagram post from 17 Feb 2021 featured the missing 1810 census records for Essex County. (Courtesy Peabody and Essex Museum Library)

Transfer from Peabody Essex Museum Library to the National Archives

So after Kabrel’s alert, two “long-time National Archives archivists determined that the marbled indigo notebook used by Assistant Marshal Ebenezer Burrell during the enumeration of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, between August 6, 1810, and August 29, 1810, indeed was an official record that belonged in the National Archives.” Common practice may have led 20 or 30 years of census records accumulating before being sent to the the Census Bureau in Washington. Once alerted, the Peabody Essex Museum Library staff cooperated to see the records sent to their rightful home at the National Archives.

1810 Massachusetts Census Records Discovery

The featured image of this blog post shows a section of the Essex County, Massachusetts, 1810 census records. Documenting the residents of  Salem in the third federal census, the records are now available at the National Archives. “A note in the margin of one section indicates that families in the northwest ward included those of John Chadwick, Jenna Jacobs, and Andrew Thomson in the column for ‘colored people’ and of Sam Brown, David McKeen, and Elijah Towne under white households,” notes the National Archives

Using the 1810 Essex County Census Records

Click here to view the 1810 Essex County online via the National Archives Catalog. If you had ancestors in Salem at this time, 1810 Massachusetts census records discovery is your lucky research day.