1847 Census of African Americans in Philadelphia


While doing some research this morning, I notice that Ancestry.com has a promotion and portal for Quaker records. I’d recently become aware of the Quaker census of African American in Philadelphia. I’ve not had the opportunity to track this down at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania but I’m pleased to learn that the documents are available online via Ancestry. So if you have ancestors who may have lived in Philadelphia in 1847, let me know. If I can find some information for you, I will share if you do not have an Ancestry subscription.

Here is a description:

About Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, African-American Census, 1847

The Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers) commissioned this census of thousands of free African American families and individuals living in six areas of the Philadelphia. This was done in order to further their efforts to help the African-American population of the city.

The census includes information on a variety of social variables. Included for each family: Name of head of household, household size by gender and age; street address; employment and compensation of everyone working in the home; children’s schools; value of personal property; whether members were born in Pennsylvania, debts, taxes, ability to read and write, how many family members were born as slaves and how much they paid for their freedom (and to whom, when known).

Although this census excludes the substantial number of African Americans living in white households, they provide data not found in the federal population schedules. When combined with the information on African Americans taken from federal censuses, it offers researchers a richly detailed view of Philadelphia’s African American community in 1847.


I hope I find some ancestors in this file as I’ve often suspected I would. I’ll spend some time combing through these documents.

I’ve been a little busy with other projects but I must finish the census of Free Philadelphians with trades.  I hope someone is finding this information useful. As always, I’m looking for other genealogists who have an interest in this time period. If you know of anyone, please let me know.


2 responses »

  1. Do you have any information on Elias Chase builder – carpenter married to Malvina James. Thank you for any information you can relay.

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