Slavery by the Numbers: Discrepancies

This post is a little inside baseball. It doesn’t meaningfully impact any previous posts in Slavery by the Numbers but will matter for future longitudinal work. I write mostly in the interests of full disclosure and leaving myself a reminder.

The University of Virginia’s Census Browser has returned to my internet and so I dug down into how numbers came up differently. So far I’ve only posted national totals, but I got those totals from adding up UVa’s state-level totals, which also include some, but not all territories. For every census, the UVa-derived totals and Gibson & Jung’s totals did not match. I knew that UVa excluded the District of Columbia but previously considered the pre-territorial populations of most places negligible. In doing that I forgot that the usual progression from unorganized territory to organized territory to part of the organized territory getting statehood did not always work out in practice. Ohio became a state direct from the Northwest Territory, without any Ohio Territory in between. So a population I would neglect because it did not appear on UVa’s summaries actually amounted to a number of people I would otherwise think fit to count.

I went back to my spreadsheets with Gibson & Jung in hand and confirmed that the state-level totals at UVa match. Likewise, with one exception where I entered a formula incorrectly, so do the percentages. That left only the territories and the District of Columbia for me to miss people in. Initially, I thought most of the missing people had to be in the District, because I did not remember the Ohio situation and related matters. (I did find some in the District, but far from all of them.) As my analysis to date has focused on 1860, when all the land in question constituted states, that those details just flew past me. In future longitudinal work I will keep the greater complexities in mind.

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