The First Census taken by the Federal Government—in 1790—was a very simple affair compared with the full business and other statistics collected by the census-takers of the present day. But such as it was, it is valuable historically. It gives the names of the heads of families and, under separate heads, the number of white males under sixteen, the number of same over sixteen, the number of white females, of free persons of color and of slaves.
Most of the names thus preserved are, with remarkable uniformity, to be found to this day in the same counties, cities, towns and precincts, showing the essential identity of blood of the present generation with that of 115 years ago. What changes are perceptible are due largely to the heavy emigration from this State, especially between 1820 and 1860, and not to the influx of new-comers, which has been small. North Carolina to-day has the smallest percentage of citizens of foreign birth, and indeed of those born in other States, of any State in the Union. Her increase in population is of her own original stock, and is due to its natural prolificness, enabling the State to overcome the enormous emigration which settled up so large a part of the new States of the South and Southwest. So heavy was this drain of emigration that in one decade, from 1830 to 1840, the population of this State increased only 2 per cent. in the ten years. There is scarcely a township in the States southwest, or west of this, which does not show a large per cent. of citizens descended from North Carolina ancestry. To these, as well as to those whose ancestors remained here, the publication of the Census of 1790 will be of interest.
Copies of the Census of 1790 were deposited in the court-houses of each of the counties then existing, but by reason of the destruction of many court-houses by fire, and the lack of proper care taken of these records in others, very few of these copies are now extant. Recourse was had to the copies deposited in Washington. To obtain
It was soon discovered that either by reason of the fires which destroyed the Federal buildings in 1800, or 1814 in the war, or in some of the transfers of archives, at the Federal Captial, the Census of 1790 for three important counties—Caswell, Granville and Orange—had been lost. The deficiency as to these counties has been supplied by copying the names and other data appearing on the tax-list of that period. The census of all the other counties is printed from the certified copy thereof furnished by the Federal Government.
The Index of this volume was compiled by Dr. S. B. Weeks, Ph. D., and is believed to be complete and accurate. It will not be included in the General Index, Vol. XXVII, which is also being prepared by the same accomplished scholar, and which will cover all the volumes—twenty-five in number—exclusive of the present volume.