City and County of Albany
Taking the census was the responsibility of the royal governor. With somewhat more than 30,000 settlers spread out across huge New York colony at the end of Queen Anne's War, getting an accurate count figured to be a daunting task. Throwing up his hands to his superiors in London, Robert Hunter was not the first New York leader to despair of being able to satisfy a constant demand from the British ministry to know the size and character of the colony's population.
Nevertheless, Hunter did authorize a census to be taken in March 1712. Thomas Williams, the sheriff of "Albany City and County," was empowered to scour the county and was charged with making an accurate and detailed list of those living within its far flung borders. By 1714, the aggregated results apparently had been made public. During the nineteenth-century, they would be printed in the large collections we know generally as the "New York Colonial Documents." Since then, these important statistics have appeared in a number of additional publications.
Although no individuals were named, the statistics presented provide a detailed demographic handle on the "Albany" populace for the first time. Expansive Albany County was credited with 3,329 total inhabitants. Beyond that, statistics on gender, age, place of residence, and race were unique and unprecedented features of this so-called "census of 1714."
The city of Albany had an overall population of 1,128. For the first time, detailed statistics were recorded on Albany's African ancestry population. City slaves numbered 113 - 66 female and 47 male - or 11.28% of the city total. Almost half of that number (58) were living in affluent First Ward households. However, female slaves and boys under sixteen accounted for 84% of the citywide slave total. This distribution stood in contrast to agricultural Rensselaerswyck whose 181 slaves were divided 114 male (including 73 over sixteen) and 67 female. City slaveholders kept women and children as household servants while adult male slaves were sent to work and live on countryside farms.
Although census returns were made several times during the eighteenth century, no comparable population breakdowns are available for compilation until the first Federal Census of 1790. After that, census information became increasingly comprehensive.
These numbers have been printed and presented in a number (or rather in a wide variety) of ways and formats over the past two centuries. All are more or less derivative of the material first printed on page 905 in volume III of The Documentary History of the State of New York which first appeared in 1850. That statistical table was included in a section of the volume entitled "Papers Relating to Albany and Adjacent Places" and numbered [chapter] XIV (following p. 868).
first posted 3/6/00; recast and revised 2/22/14