Monday, March 15, 2010

The U.S. Census

We received our 2010 Census form.
We filled out our 2010 Census form.
Tomorrow we will mail back our 2010 Census form.
The information collected won’t be made public until 2082.
Easy peasy and quick as a wink it was.

But as a family genealogist who has pored over earlier census records, I have to ask: Where are all the fascinating and often useful genealogical questions?

Here are a few examples of U.S. Census questions from 1790 to 2000:

Value of home if owned or monthly rental if rented?
Does this family have a radio set?
Does this family live on a farm?
Attended school or college anytime since September 1st?
Whether able to read?
Able to write?
Place of birth of each person and the parents of each person?
Single, married, widowed or divorced?
Number of years of present marriage?
Mother of how many children? Number born? Number living?
Blind, deaf, dumb, idiotic, insane, maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled?
Pauper or convict?
Profession, occupation or trade?
Number of months person has been unemployed during census year?
Weeks worked last year?
Wage and salary income last year?
Value of personal estate?
Year of immigration to the U.S.?
Naturalized or alien?
If naturalized, year of naturalization?
Male citizen of U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards where rights to vote is denied on other grounds than rebellion or other crime?

O.K. admittedly, we definitely run up against the problem of political correctness. But Geezalu, the “Place of birth of each person and the parents of each person?” has made all the difference in many a family tree search. How about “Does this family have a radio set?” - that one’s cool. And I can think of a couple of relatives people I’d report as “idiotic or insane” - although perhaps in 1870 they meant something a little bit different!


Sue said...

HAHA - funny you mentioned idiotic or insane, when I read that question, I'd already started listing people I know who fall into that category.

We don't have anything like this in SA, I think it's great!

dancingmorganmouse said...

Don't tell anyone, but I LOVE filling in the census form, such larks eh?!

Sue said...

It's the kind of thing I'd also enjoy filling in...

Worcester said...

The purpose of the census is defined pretty narrowly by the constitution. This one comes pretty close to being constitutional. I'll only be omitting one piece of information (phone number) this time.

I skipped the 2000 one entirely -- it asked for way too much information.

Pink Granite said...

Hi Sue & DMM -
Because the information is kept confidential for 72 years, what we fill out this year won't be revealed until 2082.
Looking back on the old forms that show our relatives, we've been able to learn a great deal about them and help put the pieces of the puzzle together - so fascinating!
- Lee

Hi Worcester -
That's correct. But from the very beginning there have been a great many questions added and changed.

What you likely had ten years ago was a "long form". Only a small percentage of the population received those (16%). This year there is no long form, everyone received the same "short form".

Rather than skipping the Census entirely, it's better to do what you did and fill out what you can and send it back in. At least that gives a more accurate head count.
Thanks -
- Lee