Dec 2007, revised Feb 2008
I have transcribed and annotated the
1850 census for Wellfleet, and posted it as a 750 kB Excel file, http://CapeCodHistory.us/Wellfleet-records/Wellfleet-1850.xls.
(Some people can't open the Excel file, and I've made an HTML version, which is harder to
read and use.) If you write to comment (to David.Kew [ at ]
verizon.net), please indicate household
or page and line numbers when relevant. This should be an ongoing
The census tabulates the people of the town as
of 1 June 1850. There are 58 pages, with 42 entries per page, except 17
on the last one, for a total of 2411 people, in 502 households.
Each page includes
the date on which it was
actually written (not included in the transcription), and those dates
extend into August. The document was written in a crabbed hand,
photographed. Numbers and middle initials are particularly hard to
read. Page image PDF
The census seems to have been taken from South to
Columns B-N are transcripts of the actual data
as I read them, except that the majority of surnames, occupations and
birth states were actually indicated by ditto marks. The other
columns are my reworking of the
data to facilitate spreadsheet analysis, with comments, family
relationships and maiden names based on my genealogical database.
Separate pages have
tables and charts of names, occupations and ages.
A - Excel line number, for default sorting
B - Page.Line number: from the census pages
C, D - Dwelling and household: Most people lived in
single-household dwellings, but two-household dwellings were common,
with up to four-household dwellings. There were also 2 hotels and
house. There were 423 dwellings and 502 households. Several pages
were photographed without including the
dwelling number, but all still have the household number. Several
errors were made when
writing in the dwelling and line numbers, splitting families,
which I changed and noted. The family clusters are notable.
E - Name: Usually only the head of household's surname was
written, the other family members' indicated by ditto marks, or just
omitted. Middle initials were often included, but not full middle
names, except when
the census taker apparently thought those were surnames. Given and
surnames were usually fairly clear, but middle initials were
often not, or
just wrong. I filled in the surnames based on the ditto marks,
context and my database.
F - Age: These are frequently wrong by 1 or 2 years, but
about 10 years. Infants ages were measured in months, but there seems
have been a consistent starting point (supposed to be 1 Jun
1850). I commented on some large errors, but didn't fix them.
Some illegible and missing ones were filled in from my
genealogical database. Mary Harding (mn unknown) was
the oldest, at 89. The age distribution graph looks like that of a
Third World country, not surprisingly.
G - Gender: There were a surprising number of gender
which I corrected and noted. Males 1258, females 1153.
H - Race: There were 2 black people in town, Charles &
Sarah Pope, household 472. (I mostly use this column to bookmark lines
to research further.)
I - Occupation: Males over 16 had occupations listed, if
The majority (68%) were mariners, and so often indicated with
ditto marks. Several head-of-household men did not have any
markings--it is unclear to me whether the spaces were
accidentally or intentionally left blank, or whether there are ditto
faint to see. ("None" is a defined occupation.) Many young men, 16-20,
do not have occupations listed.
The government employees consisted of 4 fish
inspectors, 1 school teacher, 1 post master, 1 light keeper and
the keeper of the alms house. Since there were several
schools, but only 1 male teacher, the other teachers were women.
J - Valuation: Households were assessed for value (by
unknown criteria), with
half having enough to bother with. Wealthiest was Solomon
Holbrook, with $3000.
There was only one baker, Marcus Sidrick, age 16, so perhaps his
mother, or another woman, owned a bakery. The recently widowed
Hannah Dill managed a hotel, and several
teens and young women were probably "help," but the occupations
of other women are unknown.
K - Birth state: Most often ditto marks for Mass. are seen
down the whole page. These are frequently wrong for wash-ashores
and probably for transients, and one family has "England" written,
yet was Wellfleet born.
L - Married within year: Some known recent marriages were
M - In school within year: Virtually all children 4-16
school, and some 17-19.
N - Special concern: Blind, insane, deaf, paupers, etc.
were several such. A separate column for "over age 20 and cannot
read" has only 1 questionable entry, and is combined with the
special concern column,
but probably should have had several entries. I think the
Portuguese men, in particular, probably were illiterate.
My annotation columns:
O - Given name: My interpretation, with standardized
and more likely middle initials. Most of the people are in my
database from town, state and cemetery records. Married women
sometimes used their
given middle name, and sometimes used their maiden name as a
There is a problem with Lemuel and Samuel: some
males that are pretty clearly Lemuel in the census are Samuel in
other records. There are so many confusions between such names that I
suspect the census taker did not hear a difference. Or Lemuel was
unfashionable. Other times
the problem is the penmanship. These may be revised later.
P - Surname: My interpretation, with standardized spelling.
Q - Surname, Given.
R - Comments: mostly comments on differences between
seen and my version.
S - Nominal birth year: For sorting and data analysis.
just subtracts the age from 1850, except I filled in the data for
infants based on 1 Jun 1850 as the benchmark date.
T - Relationship: My analysis of the household
From my database when possible, but some are assumed.
h - head male (usually husband)
w - wife
hw - head woman (woman heading households were
s- son (including stepson); gs - grandson; sl
d - daughter (including stepdaughter); gd -
granddaughter; dl - daughter-in-law
m - mother; ml- mother-in-law
f - father; fl - father-in-law
b - boarder, a term I use mostly for unrelated
adult males in homes
n - niece, nephew
help - unrelated teen and adult women in
homes. Since women's occupations were not listed, this is
? - mostly for children that I can't relate to
U - Maiden names: for married women, and a few spinsters.
It is posted as a locked file, meaning that you can
download it and sort it, but not modify it directly. (To make a
modifiable version, simply "save a copy as ...".) This
is one amateur's work, done over
several months. There certainly are errors and questionable
deciphering, so please check the page images yourself for crucial
entries, which are here and at