U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules were taken in every census between 1850 and 1885, recording deaths in the year preceding the official enumeration date. For example, the 1860 mortality schedules include persons who died between 1 June 1859 and 31 May 1860. Information on these schedules provides important genealogical information, including the deceased individual's name, age, sex, marital status, state or country of birth, month of death, occupation, cause of death and length of illness.
The 1885 census year was unique, with mortality schedules available for a limited number of states. In an act of 1879, states were requested to conduct a federally-sponsored semi-decennial census, in between census years, to begin in 1885. Only a few states responded: Florida, Nebraska, Colorado, and the territories of New Mexico and Dakota. These mortality schedules include deaths occurring in the 12-months prior to June 1885. Most available federal mortality schedules can be researched online, others may be found in state archives and other repositories.
Although it is believed deaths were significantly under-reported, mortality schedules may be the only record of death for some persons, including African American slaves and other ethnic minorities who might not otherwise be enumerated and persons whose deaths might not be recorded elsewhere. The deaths of children were also included, which may help fill in family groups. In addition to identifying deceased ancestors in time and place, mortality schedules also provide important information as to cause of death and provide useful leads in the search for other records, cemetery records, probate records, obituaries, etc.
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