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The Compiling of the 1880 Census of West Va.
By: William A. Marsh
After fifteen years of intensive effort, the 14th and last volume of the 1880 Census of
West Virginia has been published. The thirteen volume series, covering the 650,000 people in
the 54 counties, is compiled alphabetically.
These county census compilations are not just an index to the 1880 census but, indeed,
include most of the information available on each individual in the microfilmed census listings.
The basic data limitation was the amount of data that could be entered on one line of text. A
code precedes each head of household and non-surname entry. The letter indicates the
enumeration district followed by the page number on which the entry can be found in that
enumeration district. The list of enumeration district letter designators is found in the
Foreword to each county. This code enables the user to quickly find the entry on the microfilm
if he desires to confirm the information or to review the material not included in the book. The
same coding format is used in the 1232 page Index.
The first six volumes were prepared by manually extracting the information from the
microfilm rolls and entering the data for each head of household and non-surname on
individual half sheets of paper. When all the data for the county had been extracted the sheets
of paper were sorted alphabetically and the manuscript was typed. Fortunately in preparing
these early volumes, top-notch typing was available Volume 6 was the last typed manuscript.
Volume 7 and subsequent volumes were prepared on a Macintosh computer. When I made the
transition to the computer in 1985 it took me a year to find a satisfactory data base program
that would enable me to extract, sort and print the data the way it had previously been typed.
The manuscripts for Volumes 7, 8 and 9 were printed on a dot matrix printer. The last five
volumes, 10-14 and the Index, were printed on a laser printer with pronounced improvement in
the appearance of the typed manuscript.
Prior to beginning this project in 1977, I had been advised by several genealogical
publishers that my proposed project was too ambitious, too time consuming and too expensive.
They strongly recommended that I devote my efforts towards preparing an index of the 1880
Census of West Virginia. I felt the need existed for printing, in book form, all the people in
the census -- not just the heads of household and non-surname people. After publishing several
volumes I began to appreciate the reason for their views but since this was what I wanted I just
continued. It took fifteen years with many trials and tribulations along the way but now that it
is completed the effort was worth it.
The 1880 Census is an especially useful aid to family researchers in that it is the first
census in which the birthplace of the ndirthplace ofividual's the individual's father and mother are shown. This
information can be of great assistance in pursuing the search for earlier ancestors by restricting
the area of search. The 1880 Census of West Virginia, in book form, allows the novice (or
even the experienced genealogist) to search at leisure through the alphabetical listings.
To the best of my knowledge, the 13 volume series of the 1880 Census of West
Virginia and its 14th Volume Index is the only complete 1880 state census published in book
form. Many individual counties have been published in book form but no complete state census
for 1850 or subsequent census years.
This 13 volume series is a compilation of all the individuals enumerated in the 1880
census for the 54 West Virginia counties and contains over 650,000 listings. The Index
contains 157,432 entries. The Index is also an index to the microfilmed census rolls.
Texas State Genealogical Society. Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994. San Antonio, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39868/. Accessed March 16, 2014.