Ellen and William Craft at Lewis Hayden's House
How to Read the 1850 Census
and compiled by Marjorie Duby (Copyright © 2008)
What can we learn about a section of Boston in 1850 by using the census ( transcription )?
Lesson Plan Title:
How to Read and Interpret the 1850 U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page
Grade Level: 5
Lesson Concept/Topic to Teach: Transcribing and Analyzing Facts from Census Information
Overall Unit Objectives
Fugitive Slaves in the Boston Area; Reconstructing a profile of Lewis Hayden,
Ellen and William Craft using primary source documents
information from reference sources
and contrast credibility of differing accounts of the same incident
how people in the past could believe themselves justified in excluding
others from their community or privileges
– Recognize the historical time period and how it must be taken into
account when passing judgment on people and actions of the past
Curriculum Frameworks (Standards) Addressed:
Standard 2: Historical Understanding
- History: Strand 3: Research, Evidence and Point of View
- Comprehension: Select (identify) relevant passages
will use various sources for reconstructing the past
will read and interpret various formats of written expression
will transcribe the document
will categorize and classify collected information
Classroom materials needed for Session
a transparency – A transcribed copy of the 1850
U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page 402
a class set of – A transcribed copy of 1850
U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page 402
a class set of - “1850 U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page 402”
a transparency - “1850 U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page 402”
Teacher preparation needed prior to
familiar with the census as a primary source document particularly “About
the 1850 U.S. Census”
- Prepare analysis questions similar to those mentioned
in “Gathering Facts: Analyzing the Document” for use in interpreting this
census document in a classroom discussion
- Become familiar with deciphering handwriting of the
- Review historical background information: Fugitive
Slave Act of 1793; Personal Liberty Laws; Compromise of 1850: Fugitive
Detailed description of student activities with
instructions to teachers:
- Explain to your students that for this classroom activity, we
are to be historians attempting to gather information about 1850 and the
people and times in which they lived by analyzing one page of the 1850
- Group the class in pairs for collaboration.
- Pass out the multiple copies of the transcribed copy of 1850 U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page
402, Dwellings 859-862
- Assist the class members in an oral interpretation of the
document to determine what they know about this document. (Information in
rows and columns; manipulation of the facts to compare, infer, draw
- Pass out the multiple copies of the original “1850 U.S. Census
MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6 page 402” that you photocopied, giving one copy
to each pair of students.
- Direct the attention of the class members to the original
copy. Tell the class that
this page is an actual copy of the information gathered by a census taker
in Boston in 1850.
- Explain that the information gatherer used cursive handwriting
and that the handwriting is not always clear, that abbreviations and
spelling differed from current script.
- Model how to read a family entry, directing the students to
follow along with: Sample 1: Line 9 – Dan Blaisdell
– Dwelling 859 – Family number 1233 – 56 years old
– M – Trader – born in N.H.
Sample 2: Line 10
– Mary “ – means repeat the word above so it is Blaisdell
Sample 3: Line 11
– David Blaisdell – 17 – M – Clerk – Mass.
Sample 4: Line 18
– S.H. Flint – 30 – M – black – Boarding House
- Using “Gathering facts: analyzing the document”,
create a classroom practical use of the document
- Focus on lines 27-39 – the dwelling of Lewis
Hayden – Explain that in future lessons we will focus on Lewis
Hayden’s involvement in 1850s Boston history through historical documents.
In our next lesson, we will begin creating a profile of William and Ellen
Craft, two tenants currently living in his boarding house.
- Display the pictures of Lewis Hayden and of the
Citations for the selected documents of this
U.S. Census MA Suffolk Boston Ward 6, Page 402, NARA, Northeast Region,
Roll M432_336 accessed 31 July 2008.
U.S. Slave Schedules, Georgia Bibb Macon, Robert Collins, ancestry.com
accessed 31 July 2008.
Boston City Directory, William Craft, footnote.com accessed 30 July 2008.
- Craft, William. Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom;
or, the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery. London: William
Tweedie, 1860. (Includes a portrait of Ellen Craft and William
Hayden photograph, The Boston Athenaeum
Suggestions for evaluating this activity:
Instruct the class members to act as enumerators and to
create an original census listing using their family’s information or that of
neighbors and friends adapted to life in 1850
one blank 1850 U.S. Census form to each group.
student understanding of the parts of a census while circulating and
listening to hear each group’s strategies and plans.
the finished census document.
Last modified: February 24, 2017.