In the previous entry of this column, we examined the Freedmans Bank deposit slip for an African-American man named Robert S. Tarleton. To gather more information on this person, we will examine the federal census records.

The Constitution of the United States of America provided for a decennial census, in order to count the population. Beginning in 1790, a federal census was taken every ten years, but identified only free citizens; enslaved African-Americans were counted by number only. The 1870 census was the first to contain the names of all African-Americans, being the first after the abolition of slavery. The information contained in this record group was supposed to reflect the situation on Census Day, which was 1 June 1870, even though the survey may not have been conducted on that date.

We will examine the 1870 federal census record in order to corroborate the information contained within the Freedmans Bank record, and gather any additional information that it may contain.

Here is the entry for Robert S. Tarleton in the 1870 census:


[SOURCE: 1870 U. S. Census, Colleton Co., South Carolina, population schedule, Blake Township, Green Pond post office, pg. 17, pg. 9 [stamped], dwelling 163, family 183, Robert Tarleton household; digital image, ( : accessed 20 Oct 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1492.]

First, we must consider this source on its own merits, just as we did previously with the Bank record.

Is this source Original or Derivative?

This is an image copy of the original federal copy of the census enumeration.

Does the source contain Primary or Secondary Information?

Unfortunately, the informant is not identified on any of the households enumerated in the federal census. While the ideal situation was for the enumerator to interview the head of household, it was common for other members of the household, or even neighbors, to provide the information. The determination of the information as primary or secondary is therefore impossible. For this reason, a federal census records accuracy can only be determined through corroboration by other sources.

The census record contains the following facts:

  • The census taker, John K. Terry, visited the Tarleton household on 15 August 1870.
  • Robert Tarleton was a 35-year-old mulatto farmer, living near the Green Pond post office in Blake Township, Colleton County, South Carolina. This age implies a birthdate of ca. 1835.
  • Robert did not own any real estate, but owned personal property valued at $175. He was born in South Carolina.
  • Robert could read and write.
  • The other members of his household were Nanny, 30 years old (born ca. 1840), female mulatto; Nancy, 4 years old (born ca. 1866), female mulatto; and Joseph, 2 years old (born ca. 1868), male mulatto. No relationships are provided in this census. Also living with the family was one Daniel Barnwell, a 12-year-old male mulatto (born ca. 1858). All of these members of the household were reportedly born in South Carolina.
  • Enumerated next to the Robert Tarleton household was the Joseph Tarleton household. Joseph Tarleton was a 63-year-old mulatto laborer, implying a birth date of ca. 1807. Living with Joseph Tarleton was one Sarah Tarleton, a 63-year-old black female, born ca. 1807. Both Joseph and Sarah were reportedly born in South Carolina. The census does not state a relationship between the two. Joseph did not own any real or personal property.
  • Several dwellings after the Robert Tarleton household, one Betsey Scott, a 28-year-old female mulatto, lives in the household of one Benjamin Ganett[?], a 35-year-old black male.

We can now compare the facts from this record with those of the Freedmans Bank record:

1870 U. S. Census

Freedmans Bank deposit

(dated 21 Nov 1871)

Residence of Robert Tarletown: Green Pond p.o., Blake Township, Colleton Co., South Carolina Residence of Robert S. Tarleton: Combahee, near Green Pond, South Carolina
Robert Tarleton born ca. 1835, South Carolina Robert Tarleton born ca. August 1835, South Santee, South Carolina
Occupation: farmer Occupation: preacher of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church
In household, Nanny Tarleton, age 30 (no relationship stated) Wife Nanny
In household, children Nancy, age 4, and Joseph, age 2 (no relationships stated) Children Nancy, Joseph, and Sophia, who died in 1865
Neighbors Joseph and Sarah Tarleton (no relationships stated) Parents Joseph Tarleton and Sarah Tarleton, who died 29 July 1871
Neighbor Betsey Scott (no relationship stated) Sibling Betsy Scott


Both records clearly agree on all facts, with the possible exception of Roberts occupation. His description as a farmer in the 1870 census as opposed to a preacher as in the 1871 Bank record can mean one of two things: either he became a preacher after the 1870 census visit, or he was both a farmer and a preacher. Being a preacher and a farmer were not necessarily mutually exclusive occupations during this time period and geographic area. In fact, it was quite common that nearly all men were considered farmers, as they fed their families from the sweat of their own brow.

The census record adds further details concerning the Roberts family, not contained in the Freedmans Bank record. On the other hand, the Bank record reports relationships not contained within the census record. The two records viewed together provide a portrait of Robert S. Tarleton and his family between 1870 and 1871.

We will examine additional records for Robert and his family in the future.

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