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(+) Lost 1820 U.S. Census Records Found

24 Mar 2023 8:27 PM | Anonymous

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.

The U.S. Census records for the extreme northern strip of land in Maine were missing for more than 150 years. The microfilms of the 1820 U.S. Census do not contain records for the towns of the Upper St. John River Valley in what is today Aroostook County, Maine. That was a problem for me, as several of my ancestors lived in the area in 1820 and were not listed in the 1820 U.S. Census. Or at least, I couldn't find them.

However, there is good news for those of us looking for ancestors in the Upper St. John River Valley. The records were located some years ago, although long after the microfilm copies had been made. In fact, a transcription of those missing census records is even available on the World Wide Web. I found some of my ancestors listed on the Web site, more than thirty years after I first looked for them in the National Archives microfilm!

The transcriptions are not available on genealogy web sites as the transcriptions on those web sites apparently were made from the microfilm images.

In 1820, the land of the Saint John River Valley in what is now Maine and New Brunswick was disputed territory, claimed by both the United States and Great Britain. A U.S. government official, such as a census enumerator, could have been arrested and incarcerated by the British authorities if he dared to enter this disputed territory. Likewise, British (Canadian) officials faced similar risks from the U.S. law enforcement officers of the time. 

When I found the towns were not listed in the 1820 U.S. census records on National Archives microfilm no. M33, reel no. 38, I assumed that the census takers (enumerators) never set foot in the disputed territory. It seems that I was wrong. In fact, one brave census enumerator, True Bradbury, did enter the disputed territory and did count the citizens he found, even those living on what is today the Canadian side of the border. However, the entries he made are not on microfilm no. M33, reel no. 38.

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