Did you know you can search the 1880 Census Index at 1880 Census FREE?
You won't get to see the image free but you will get some basic information. Here's what I got.
Name: Robert Downing
Estimated birth year: abt 1794
Occupation: Retired Farmer
Relationship to head-of-household: Self
Home in 1880: Mt Pulaski, Logan, Illinois
Marital status: Married
Spouse's name: Jane Downing
Father's birthplace: PA
Mother's birthplace: PA
The next two people I tried were not found -- although I did find them on the LDS 1880 census index. I specifically told them what county I wanted but they persisted in showing me everyone in the US.
If you are out of other ideas it's worth a shot. But I'd go to the LDS site first. They have a complete index of the 1880 census too. If you have the CDs or know a place that does you can search for the neighbors too. Knowing the names of the neighbors can provide a lot of information.
WHAT THE CENSUS TAKER ASKED
When the census taker went door to door what was he supposed to do? Knowing that can be useful information. To find out go to:
You might find a useful free spreadsheet here:
He has spreadsheets for all the federal censuses and more, also for cemeteries, passenger manifests, research, family groups.
If you don't have a spreadsheet program -- it doesn't have to be the latest version -- he has them in pdf.
I started to put together a blog on the census. Then I remembered I don't need to reinvent the wheel. Try Rootsweb's Guide.
It covers just about everything including censuses. Be sure to read the pitfalls -- don't take census information as gospel. If it is a transcribed census look at it even more cautiously. Note the dates the census was "as of" -- the official date of the census. It is almost assuredly different than the day it was actually taken. Were they always careful about that? What do you think?
Knowing what was asked is important too. Unfortunately you can't know who they asked it of. Was it an adult? A child? A neighbor? The census is a guide but not necessarily completely factual.
Did you know the 1900 census asked the exact month and year of birth and the number of years married? Did you know the 1880 census asked for the birthplace of each individual AND their parents? The 1910 census asked when you arrived in the US. My favorite is the 1930 census which asked if you owned a radio.