|THE 1850 FEDERAL CENSUS:
TOWN OF ALTO
Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin
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The 1850 Alto census was conducted between September 19 and September 26 by George Williams. He began his enumeration in the southeastern corner of the township and worked his way west and then north along the county lines. He then traveled east along current Liner Road, separating Alto Township from Metomen. Reaching section 1, Williams traveled southwest to section 15 and then completed the interior sections to the north. From section 8, he skipped back to section 22, traveling south and then east to section 25. Williams finished the final two days of his census by traveling north along the Alto-Waupuin township line until he returned to section 1 and moved on to the town of Metomen.
The federal census of 1850 identified each individual in the township regardless of age, gender, or "color." In addition to name, the census recorded dwelling and family numbers (assigned in the order the census taker entered them), age, gender, "color," occupation, value of real estate (usually credited to head of household only), place of birth, marriage (if it occurred during the year), school attendance during the year, inability to read and write, and "whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict" (identified as "other" here).
An introduction to the early Dutch families in the township is available in Twilah DeBoer's "Dutch Settlers in Alto, Wisconsin."
Occupationally, the township listed 156 farmers, 27 laborers, 2 carpenters, 1 chair maker, 1 shoe maker, 1 tailor, 1 tavern keeper, and 1 teamster.
Reliability of the Records
Rather than trying to interpret and correct the records, however, the general approach here has been to present the census records with as much fidelity to Williams' original entries as possible. There are two reasons. First, an attempt to correct errors risks the introduction of additional ones. Second, and more important, the census itself is an historic document that, errors and all, can tell us something about the process of census taking and the census taker. In presenting the document as written, the original sequence of entries has also been retained, because it offers clues about where families were living. Comparison with the federal land patent records and the 1862 county plat map can identify the general location of many of the homesteads, and those that do not appear in the land records can often be placed in relation to others by virtue of census sequence. For an illustration, see the Fairwater 1853 article.
It should also be noted that the original handwritten records frequently are difficult to read. Those names for which there is a significant level of uncertainty are marked with a (?) marker, and where portions of the handwriting are unreadable missing letters have been marked with an "_."
|Last updated 5/8/1999||If you have information to share about the census, please contact Bob Schuster at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, WI 53716.|