2 add 1790 comparison
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My suspicion is that these are from some form of electoral roll or tax register, not a census proper - as noted, there's no obvious evidence of a 1785 census.

There was, however, a "Grand List" of some kind at the time, which survives today as the system for Vermont property tax. There is an example 1781 Grand List for Poulteney reproduced here, and it simply listed names and rateable value of the land.

They seem to have been a normal and widespread tool throughout Vermont at the time; from the proposed October 1785 Constitution, chapter II section VII, p. 47 here:

each organized town in this State, on the first Tuesday in September annually, shall have liberty to choose one able, discreet freeholder, to represent them in a county convention, to be held at such time and place as the Legislature shall by law, appoint; the members of which convention, when met, shall, by ballot, elect from their own body so many of said representatives (to consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virture) as the Legislature shall, in future, limit, having respect to the grand list of each county, in apportioning the number...

Thus the "grand list" was constructed in such a way that it could be used to apportion population between counties - doing so by number of households might have been a fair approximation to doing it by actual population.

The county "census lists" linked here only name heads of houses, and this would fit well with someone going through such a list and taking down the names of all the property-holders.

I strongly suspect that this is the source of what's being reported here as a "census", possibly with some of the details having been lost when transcriptions were passed from one person to another, but of course it's not really possible to prove that either way!


edit: we can, though, demonstrate it isn't just a copy of the 1790 census that's been misattributed as 1785. This 1785 list has Ferrisburgh, Addison County. This page has the 1790 census transcription.

It's noticeable that the 1790 one is missing several names (eg Bingham, Brush) that are present on the "1785" one. This strongly suggests it was from a different period, and the fact it has 29 households rather than 80 in the 1790 document suggests it was earlier (though it's always possible it's later and fragmented for some reason). This does feel consistent with it being actually circa 1785, though.

My suspicion is that these are from some form of electoral roll or tax register, not a census proper - as noted, there's no obvious evidence of a 1785 census.

There was, however, a "Grand List" of some kind at the time, which survives today as the system for Vermont property tax. There is an example 1781 Grand List for Poulteney reproduced here, and it simply listed names and rateable value of the land.

They seem to have been a normal and widespread tool throughout Vermont at the time; from the proposed October 1785 Constitution, chapter II section VII, p. 47 here:

each organized town in this State, on the first Tuesday in September annually, shall have liberty to choose one able, discreet freeholder, to represent them in a county convention, to be held at such time and place as the Legislature shall by law, appoint; the members of which convention, when met, shall, by ballot, elect from their own body so many of said representatives (to consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virture) as the Legislature shall, in future, limit, having respect to the grand list of each county, in apportioning the number...

Thus the "grand list" was constructed in such a way that it could be used to apportion population between counties - doing so by number of households might have been a fair approximation to doing it by actual population.

The county "census lists" linked here only name heads of houses, and this would fit well with someone going through such a list and taking down the names of all the property-holders.

I strongly suspect that this is the source of what's being reported here as a "census", possibly with some of the details having been lost when transcriptions were passed from one person to another, but of course it's not really possible to prove that either way!

My suspicion is that these are from some form of electoral roll or tax register, not a census proper - as noted, there's no obvious evidence of a 1785 census.

There was, however, a "Grand List" of some kind at the time, which survives today as the system for Vermont property tax. There is an example 1781 Grand List for Poulteney reproduced here, and it simply listed names and rateable value of the land.

They seem to have been a normal and widespread tool throughout Vermont at the time; from the proposed October 1785 Constitution, chapter II section VII, p. 47 here:

each organized town in this State, on the first Tuesday in September annually, shall have liberty to choose one able, discreet freeholder, to represent them in a county convention, to be held at such time and place as the Legislature shall by law, appoint; the members of which convention, when met, shall, by ballot, elect from their own body so many of said representatives (to consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virture) as the Legislature shall, in future, limit, having respect to the grand list of each county, in apportioning the number...

Thus the "grand list" was constructed in such a way that it could be used to apportion population between counties - doing so by number of households might have been a fair approximation to doing it by actual population.

The county "census lists" linked here only name heads of houses, and this would fit well with someone going through such a list and taking down the names of all the property-holders.

I strongly suspect that this is the source of what's being reported here as a "census", possibly with some of the details having been lost when transcriptions were passed from one person to another, but of course it's not really possible to prove that either way!


edit: we can, though, demonstrate it isn't just a copy of the 1790 census that's been misattributed as 1785. This 1785 list has Ferrisburgh, Addison County. This page has the 1790 census transcription.

It's noticeable that the 1790 one is missing several names (eg Bingham, Brush) that are present on the "1785" one. This strongly suggests it was from a different period, and the fact it has 29 households rather than 80 in the 1790 document suggests it was earlier (though it's always possible it's later and fragmented for some reason). This does feel consistent with it being actually circa 1785, though.

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source | link

My suspicion is that these are from some form of electoral roll or tax register, not a census proper - as noted, there's no obvious evidence of a 1785 census.

There was, however, a "Grand List" of some kind at the time, which survives today as the system for Vermont property tax. There is an example 1781 Grand List for Poulteney reproduced here, and it simply listed names and rateable value of the land.

They seem to have been a normal and widespread tool throughout Vermont at the time; from the proposed October 1785 Constitution, chapter II section VII, p. 47 here:

each organized town in this State, on the first Tuesday in September annually, shall have liberty to choose one able, discreet freeholder, to represent them in a county convention, to be held at such time and place as the Legislature shall by law, appoint; the members of which convention, when met, shall, by ballot, elect from their own body so many of said representatives (to consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virture) as the Legislature shall, in future, limit, having respect to the grand list of each county, in apportioning the number...

Thus the "grand list" was constructed in such a way that it could be used to apportion population between counties - doing so by number of households might have been a fair approximation to doing it by actual population.

The county "census lists" linked here only name heads of houses, and this would fit well with someone going through such a list and taking down the names of all the property-holders.

I strongly suspect that this is the source of what's being reported here as a "census", possibly with some of the details having been lost when transcriptions were passed from one person to another, but of course it's not really possible to prove that either way!