The 1870 US federal census instructions include detailed instructions about how occupations are to be listed. Among the distinctions to be made was the one between “housekeeper” and “keeping house.” Someone who was a “housekeeper” was one who received wages for performing that service. Someone keeping house for their own family members was to be listed as “keeping house.”

Instructions for the census were to be followed precisely, but like anything else, there can be variation from one census enumerator to another. The complete set of 1870 census instructions can be found online at

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