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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Census Taking

Tuesday's Tip is a daily blogging prompt used by many Geneablogger.com to help bloggers post content on their sites. What advice would you give to another genealogist or family historian, especially someone just starting out? Post your best tips at your genealogy blog on Tuesday’s Tip.



Starting in 1790, the brand new United States government took it's first census. Census takers went throughout the new states and tried to count every person, white, black and slave. According to the United States Constitution this census taking was to take place every 10 years in order to count the population and have the correct number of representatives from each state.

Article I Section II of the original Constitution of the United States: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. (The previous sentence was modified by the 14th Amendment, section 2.) The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three."

Eventually the House of Representatives became unwieldy with the rise in population so they cut off the number of Representatives at 435. Each state receives representation in the House in proportion to its population but is entitled to at least one Representative. The most populous state, California, currently has 53 representatives. Representatives can be shifted around according to population. For instance, during it's heyday a state could have had a much larger population and, therefore, more representatives in Washington, DC. But then an economic bust comes for some reason and the population begins to move to other states looking for work. This happened when the Dust Bowl occurred during the Great Depression. The drought cause mid-West farmers to flee their farms and travel to other states looking for work, especially California. So California grew tremendously in population. If the census reflects a large enough shift in population, then the original state will lose representatives and, thus, lose power. That is why it's so important to have accurate census records and why everyone should participate and be counted by the census.

*The Great Loss of 1890*
Since 1790, a census has been taken every 10 years. A significant portion of the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by a fire in the basement at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC on 10 January 1921 and by clerk error in 1934-1935. The records of only 6,160 of the 62,979,766 people enumerated survived the fire. Of the decennial population census schedules, perhaps none might have been more critical to studies of immigration, industrialization, westward migration, and characteristics of the general population than the Eleventh Census of the United States, taken in June 1890.

Wikipedia:
"This census (1890) is one of the three for which the original data is no longer available. Almost all the population schedules were damaged in a fire in 1921, with 25% destroyed and 50% damaged by smoke and water damage. The damage to the records led to an outcry for a permanent National Archives. In December 1932, according to standard Federal record keeping procedure at the time, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of the Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers to be destroyed, including the original 1890 census schedules. The Librarian was asked by the Bureau to identify any records which should be retained for historical purposes but the Librarian did not accept the census records. Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933 and thus the 1890 census remains were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935. The other censuses that have lost almost all information were the 1800 and 1810 enumerations."

The U.S. Censuses from 1790-1930 are made public and can be searched (except for 1890) for data for genealogy purposes. It is law, to protect the privacy of the living, NOT to release censuses to the public for the past 70 yrs. The last census made public was in 2000 and it was for the year of 1930. The next census made public will come out in 2010 and will be for 1940.

I found this interesting site complete with stories from a young census taker and photos from that time.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13181/13181-h/13181-h.htm




A 1790 Census sheet

From 1790-1840 the Census only listed the names of the Head of Household and the number of people within the households in certain age ranges. For instance "John Smith had 2 boys in the age range of 10-15 yrs old and 2 females between the ages of 5-10 yrs old and 1 female in the 30-40 age range". If you are looking for the Head of Household this is helpful, but other than that it's not going to help you fill out John Smith's family.

Starting in 1850, the census taker listed everybody's name in the household and their relationship to the Head of Household, ages, race, sex, occupation and what state they were born in. This was much more valuable information to a genealogist!! Then, every census began to include more information.




1860
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, value of real estate holdings, value of personal estate, occupation, state or country of birth, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year, whether a pauper or convict. Here is an example of an 1860's Census:




1870
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, value of real estate holdings, value of personal estate, occupation, state or country of birth, state or country of father's birth, state or country of mother's birth, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year.




1880
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, value of real estate holdings, value of personal estate, occupation, state or country of birth, state or country of father's birth, state or country of mother's birth, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year




1900
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, how many years married, how many children did the mother have and how many were still living, occupation, month's not employed, state or country of mother's birth, year of immigration or naturalization, whether they could speak English, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year, whether they lived in a home or on a farm and if home/farm is rented, owned or mortgaged.




1910
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, how many years married, how many children did the mother have and how many were still living, occupation, month's not employed, state or country of mother's birth, year of immigration or naturalization, whether they could speak English, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year, whether they lived in a home or on a farm and if home/farm is rented, owned or mortgaged, whether they were a veteran of Union of Confederate Army or Navy, whether blind, deaf or dumb.




1920
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, occupation, state or country of mother's birth, year of immigration or naturalization, whether they could speak English, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year, whether they lived in a home or on a farm and if home/farm is rented, owned or mortgaged




1930
Name of everyone in household, relationship to Head of Household, age, sex, race, marital status, whether this was 1st, 2nd, etc marriage and the age when you were married the first time, occupation, industry and class of worker, state or country of mother's birth, year of immigration or naturalization, whether they could speak English, whether they could read or write, whether they attended school within the year, whether they lived in a home or farm and the value of the owned property or the amount of monthly rent pd for rental property, whether you owned a radio set, whether you were a veteran, if Indian were you mixed or full blooded.




Of course, all the censuses indicated where they were residing at the time of the census. For instance, at the top of the page is the township, county, and state where the census was taken. Many even included street names down the sides of the census sheets.

Some of the problems of the censuses:
1) Many people were illiterate and were unable to spell their own names so the Census takers wrote the names as they sounded. Many names are misspelled due to the Census taker being unable to spell them or because of the mispronunciation of the name. "Wilma" became "Wilmer" and "Patricia" became "Trisher".

2) Census takers could have lovely and clear handwriting or very bad handwriting which makes the census sheets illegible. Or census takers used some unusual characteristics in their handwriting. (See more about this later in this posting.)

3) Some households were missed completely.

4) Ages are often mis-represented. There could be many different reasons for this, such as:
* A woman wanting to appear younger than her years to the census taker or any others within listening range.
* A man might want to appear older or younger than he really was.
* They may not remember exactly when little Johnny was born since they didn't keep a record at the time (many kept records in their family Bible but if they were illiterate they didn't even do that).
* They are in a hurry, don't care and just rattle off something whether it was exactly true or not.
* After the turn of the century many farming families moved into towns to work in industrial mills (down here it was cotton mills), there began to be concern about children working full time jobs. So families would often lie about their children's ages in order for the children to be able to work in the mills and bring home the much needed money. They would lie to any "official" just in case. There was no record of births and deaths until they began keeping birth and death certificates between 1913-1915.

5) The census takers relied on the truth from those they were questioning. And the truth wasn't always told. Someone might have inflated his real estate value in order to look important. Or they may have said they were a Civil War veteran when they really weren't. They may have said they had 9 children when, in fact, the mother had given birth to 10 children, but the current husband doesn't know about the illegitimate child she had. Or the father could have fathered 2 families but the wife only knows about hers. The husband could say he was a farmer (almost everyone was until 1910 and people were moving to towns and cities in droves to get jobs in factories and mills) when, in reality, he was worthless and did little or nothing and it was the wife and children that worked and kept them afloat. These kinds of complications wouldn't have been revealed to the census taker.

6) In computerizing the census records someone had to read the census sheets and input them into a computer. This leads us to more errors: typos, inability to read the illegible handwriting, stains on census sheets that made them illegible, and unfamiliarity with names in English. For instance, if the data input is done by a Chinese worker in China...it may be cheaper, but it leads to some funny data input. For instance, I found a relative named "Sibby" but her name was input as "Silly". Americans would have realized that "Silly" probably wasn't the correct name and would have looked more closely.

Here are some real situations that I have come across that have caused problems:
* Stan's great grandfather was Will Cohen. It took me some time to find out that the name was spelled many different ways. Here are some examples: Cohen, Kohen, Cohn, Kohn, Cohan, Kohan, Coan, Coin, Coen, Koan, Koin, Koen, Cowan, Cowen, Cowin. Once I figured out most of the spellings I began to have more luck finding the family members in the census. Will Cohen's father was Zadock Coan. Zadock was misspelled as Zadoc, Zadop, Zadoch, Zade. In my line there are Reeses. I have found them spelled as Rhys (probably the original Welsh spelling), Reese, Reece, Rees, Rease, Reise, Reis, Reas, etc.

* Many families pass down family names. So Great Granddad was Joe John Sr., Granddad was Joe John Jr., Dad was Joe John III, and Son was Joe John IV. Well, this is understandable but makes for a mell of a hess for genealogists later down the line. Hee, hee! I have so many Williams and Mary's in our line that it can get monotonous!

* Tombstones with the wrong date of birth or date of death on them. Just because it's etched in stone doesn't make them right.

* Enlistment records with incorrect dates of birth. Many young boys wanted to go to war and lied about their ages in order to enlist.

* A man was input in the computer with the name, "Spruce Ray Pine". When I looked at the original record the man's name was NOT Spruce Pine. He merely lived in Spruce Pine. That goes back to data input being done cheaply in a foreign country!

* In census, children can be listed as a son/daughter, niece/nephew, sister/brother, grandson/granddaughter but it may really be an illegitimate child. I have one puzzle right now. There were 2 spinster sisters who had a little girl living with them. The child had the same name and birth year as their brother's daughter. But the censuses list this child as the spinster aunts' sister and daughter. Why would their niece come to live with them and then be enumerated as a "sister" and, later, "daughter"? After the little girl grew up and married, the aunts still lived with her and her husband until they died. I have no idea who this little girl really was? Was she an illegitimate daughter? Was she a much younger sister that I didn't know about? Was she their niece and for some reason she was given to the spinster aunts to help take care of them and then she became like their daughter? I'll probably never know but I'm working on it.

* I have a few ancestors that served on the Confederate side but deserted and joined the Union side later in the War. They can claim to be veterans on both sides. How would you like to try to get a federal veteran's pension if you have records on both sides? Confusing! Most served only on the Confederate side but there aren't as many records for the losing side as there were for the Union side. So some of our ancestors requested veteran's pensions but there was no proof of service.

* A census taker could have unique penmanship but this can make for errors. For instance a lovely looking cursive "f" but with a round "a" on the right side. It took me awhile to figure out that this was a funny looking lower case "p" in cursive handwriting. Another is "Reese" being indexed as "Ruse" because the two lower case "e's" were closed and made it look like a "u". Another census taker would add a little tail to the end of his names so that "Reese" was indexed as "Rusa" because after the last "e" he put a flourishing tail which made it look like an "a". Try to find Reese when it's indexed as "Rusa"? I did it but I couldn't tell you how!

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