McAlisters in the First US Census

April 14, 1996

The First Census was ordered by an Act of Congress which was passed on March 1, 1790. At that time, there were twelve states in the Union. Rhode Island was admitted on May 29, 1790, and its totals are included. At that time, Maine was a part of Massachusetts, Kentucky was a part of Virginia, and the present states of Alabama and Mississippi were parts of Georgia. The present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, with part of Minnesota, were included in the Northwest Territory. The present state of Tennessee was a part of North Carolina. The Vermont totals were also included.

The summary of the results of the First Census, except for South Carolina, were submitted to the Congress on October 27, 1791. The report of South Carolina was added later. The total population of the states and territories was 3,929,326, including 697,697 slaves. The categories counted were: (1) Free white males of 16 years and upward, including heads of families; (2) Free white males under 16 years; (3) Free white females of all ages, including heads of families; (4) All other free persons; (5) Slaves.

The 1790 Census returns for Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, and Virginia were destroyed when the Capitol Building in Washington was burned by the British during the War of 1812. In 1790, Virginia had the largest population by far of any state - 747,610, followed by Pennsylvania with 340,120. The 1787 Virginia state census data has been used for this article.

  • 4 - Maine

  • 15 - New Hampshire

  • 3 - Vermont

  • 1 - Massachusetts

  • 0 - Rhode Island

  • 0 - Connecticut

  • 5 - New York

  • 33 - Pennsylvania

  • 16 - Maryland

  • 34 - Virginia *

  • 21 - North Carolina

  • 13 - South Carolina

The number of McAllisters counted in the 1790 census totaled a minimum of 744, which includes 145 heads of families. The census takers recorded eighteen different ways to spell our name, as reported in an earlier article, so none of us should be surprised if it was not spelled "correctly". The following number of McAllister heads of families were counted by state, in the census records which survived:

* The Virginia total is the number of heads of families listed in the 1787 state census. McAllisters were counted in 15 of its 78 counties. A conservative estimate of 173 total persons was computed in these 34 Virginia families, by using the average of 5.1 persons for each McAllister family, which was the same number used by the demographers in estimating the total numbers of members in all families for the 1790 census.

The total of 744 McAllisters for 1790 is a very conservative estimate, since the Georgia, Delaware and New Jersey McAllisters were not recorded, and therefore were not included in this count. I would guess that there were at least 1000 of us in 1790.