Orange County, Virginia 1810 Substitute Census
Orange is one of eighteen Virginia counties for which the 1810 census is lost. In August, 1814 British troops occupied Washington, DC and public buildings were put to the torch. In the destruction that followed, numerous early records of the government were lost, including all of Virginia’s 1790 and 1800 census reports, as well as eighteen county lists for the state's most recent  federal census. Although two “fair copies” of each county’s census had been left in the counties for public display, these were ephemeral lists and not preserved, and by 1814 they too had been mislaid, lost, or destroyed. Hence, the closest document available we have to reconstruct a partial image of the missing county lists is the personal property tax list.
According to research notes by Minor T. Weisiger, Library of Virginia archivist: “Information recorded in Virginia personal property tax records changed gradually from 1782 to 1865. The early laws required the tax commissioner in each district to record in “a fair alphabetical list” the names of the person chargeable with the tax, the names of white male tithables over the age of twenty-one, the number of white male tithables between ages sixteen and twenty-one, the number of slaves both above and below age sixteen, various types of animals such as horses and cattle, carriage wheels, ordinary licenses, and even billiard tables. Free Negroes are listed by name and often denoted in the list as “free” or “FN.”
The present abstract of Orange's 1810 personal property tax list is NOT a transcript of the entire document; rather, it is a summary of three items important in delineating the 1810 "substitute" census for this county, i.e., number of male tithables 16 and older, number of slaves twelve years and older, and the number of horses. The original form of the census was in alphabetic order by date and letter. The substitute list presented here is in absolute alphabetic order for easy reference.
In the current volume, the data is recorded as in the page sample at right:Column one represents the tithable males (16 and over) in the household; column 2 is the number of slaves over 12; and the final column is the number of horses, mares or mules.
For genealogical researchers in this 1810 period, personal property tax records may provide additional important information. Oftentimes, juniors and seniors are listed adjacent to one another and recorded on the same day. When a taxpayer is noted as “exempt”, it can be a clue to someone holding a particular position in government or being elderly, infirm, or for some other reason no longer required to pay the tithable tax. Women, both black and white, appear occasionally as heads of households when they own property in their own right or as the widow of a property owner.
Another valuable source for filling in information about an ancestor is the land tax record, and especially the one for 1815. In that year, the enumerators began to add the location of the property in relation to the county court house. Roger Ward has abstracted all of the 1815 land tax records, and they are available from this publisher at www.iberian.com. To illustrate the importance of combining the two tax records, the author has included the locations of the personal property tax residents in Orange County where they are listed in the land tax records. In all, of the 1097 households listed in the personal property tax list, 477 were identified and located in the land tax list. All distances cited in the notations represent the distance and direction from Orange county courthouse. Numerous individuals were listed as “estate” in the 18156 tax list, indicating their demise in the intervening five years. Also, occasional references to estates “in the possession of” other individuals often indicates familial relationships. The 1810 substitute census list for Orange County contains 1,097 households, 1,253 tithables, both white and free black, 3,171 slaves over the age of twelve, and 3,238 horses.