2010 Census For Genealogists

2010 U.S. Federal Census
2010 U.S. Federal Census

Every household in the United States of America has recently received the white envelope announcing the 2010 U. S. Federal Census is enclosed. For genealogist this can be a gold mine of information recorded for our future generations, to discover their ancestral roots. (Even the word "Census" makes our mouth water.) The enclosure also made mention of the importance of completing the Census for genealogical purposes.

When I received my envelope I opened with anticipation of what questions would be asked of my household and what information they would collect which would one day be available long after I am gone. As census records are not released into public domain until seventy-two years have passed. What would my future ancestors learn about me and our household?

I was sorely disappointed. The Census requests that you list:

  • everyone in the household,
  • including head of household,
  • sex,
  • age,
  • birth date (that is a plus),
  • ethnicity, Tribal information was requested for Native Americans, which is also a plus.
  • whether home is owned, and mortgaged or not.

That's it? That's it! It may be that they are under the assumption that DNA technology will replace good old fashioned leg work when it comes to tracing our ancestors. It is probable that it will, yet each census record we find for one of our ancestors provides us with a little piece of their history and even if I could trace my family history completely through DNA, as a genealogist I still want to see what my maternal great-great grandfather's occupation was. How many children they had in 1880. When did they immigrate to the U.S.?

So we'll review each census year, and why I would consider the 2010 Census to be lacking in terms of good Genealogical data.

1790 US Federal Census

1790 was the first United States Federal Census. The categories on the census allowed Congress to determine people residing in the U.S. for tax collection purposes and for appropriation of the House of Representatives. Little did they know at the time how invaluable these records would become for future generations.

Obviously only a few states were included in this Census, as only a few states existed at the time. Of the original thirteen states, data exists for only eleven states including CT, ME (part of Massachusetts at the time) MD, MA, NH, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT (which became a State in 1791, but was included in the Census).

Enumerators (Census-takers) usually appointed Marshall's, were given the liberty of taking the Census information on any paper they pleased and the format was up to their discretion, which would change to a more regulated format on future Census'.

Enumerators included the following information on the 1790 Federal Census:

  • Name of Head of Household
  • Number of free white males of sixteen years and older
  • Number of free white males under sixteen
  • Number of free white females
  • Number of all other free persons
  • Number of slaves
  • and sometimes name of Town or District of residence

 

1800 Census
1800 Census

1800 Federal Census

The Third of the U.S. Federal Census', improved somewhat as enumerators (Census-takers) were asked to include the following:

  • Name of Head of Household
  • Number of free white males and females in each age category of 0-10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45, 45 and over. (An improvement of determining ages of people living in the household)
  • Number of other free persons except Indians not taxed.
  • Number of slaves.
  • Town or District of residence. (More consistent and documented)
  • County of residence.

Schedules survive for Thirteen states, the lost (destroyed) schedules included Georgia, Indiana Territory, Kentucky, Mississippi Territory, New Jersey, Northwest Territory, Virginia, Tennessee, Alexandria County VA, and the District of Columbia. Some of these records have been recreated through tax rolls and other available documents of the period.

1810 US Federal Census

The 1810 Census was essentially the same as the 1800 Census and enumerators included the following information for each household:

  • Name of Head of Household
  • Number of free white males and females in each age category of 0-10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45, 45 and over.
  • Number of other free persons except Indians.
  • Number of slaves.
  • Town or District of residence.
  • County of residence.

Schedules exist for seventeen states and territories. There were also losses in which some have been recreated from tax rolls and other documentation available during the time period. Many of these census records were recorded by visitation, from residence to residence which helps genealogist determine neighbors and potential family. Yet, many of the enumerators for this census and the previous listed the households in alphabetical order by first letter of surname.

1820 Census

The 1820 U.S. Federal Census showed, for the first time, additional information about each household, which has become invaluable to genealogists. The enumerators were asked to include the following for each household:

  • Name of Head of Household
  • Number of free white males and females in each age category of 0-10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45, 45 and over.
  • Number of free white males aged 16 to 18.
  • Number of other free persons except Indians.
  • Number of slaves.
  • Number of persons to be naturalized
  • Number engaged in agriculture, commercial, manufacture
  • Number of colored persons (sometimes in age categories)
  • Town or District of residence.
  • County of residence.

By 1820 there were a total of 23 states in the Union. New states included, LA, IN, MS, AL, ME and IL There were district wide losses and partial losses of this years census.

1830 Census

Additional changes were made on the 1830 U.S. Federal Census, causing genealogists to jump for joy, though I'm sure that was not Congress' intent at the time. Enumerators were asked to include the following information for each household:

  • Name of Head of Household
  • Number of free white males and females in the age categories of 0-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60-70, 70-80, 80-90, 90-100, over 100.
  • Name of the slave owner
  • Number of slaves owned by that person
  • Number of male and female slaves
  • Number of free colored persons by age category
  • Number of foreigners (not naturalized) living in household
  • Number of deaf, dumb and blind persons
  • Town or District
  • County of residence

The census now included twenty-four states with the addition of Missouri also the new territory of Florida was included. As with the previous records there were county and district wide losses.

1840 U.S. Federal Census

The 1840 U.S. Federal Census is often referred to by genealogists as the first Veterans Census, because for the first time this census included whether or not there were persons in the household which were Revolutionary War Pensioners. This census also included additional information not available on previous records and consisted of not one but two pages of information on each household. Enumerators were asked to include:

  • Name of Head of Household
  • Number of free white males and females in the age categories of 0-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60-70, 70-80, 80-90, 90-100, over 100.
  • Name of the slave owner
  • Number of slaves owned by that person
  • Number of male and female slaves
  • Number of slaves and free colored persons by age category
  • Number of foreigners (not naturalized) living in household
  • Number of deaf, dumb and blind persons
  • Ages of Revolutionary War Pensioners
  • Number of individuals engaged in mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacture and trade, navigation of the ocean, navigation of canals, lakes, rivers, learned professions and engineers.
  • Number in school
  • Number of persons over the age of twenty-one who could not read or write
  • Number of insane.
  • Town or District
  • County of residence

By 1840 there were twenty-six states in the Union with the addition of Arkansas and Michigan and new territories Wisconsin and Iowa.

Image of 1840 Census
Image of 1840 Census

1850 U.S. Federal Census

For the first time in Census history, in 1850, enumerators were asked to record the names of each person living in the household, and were presented with instructions on how to complete the census, which attributed to greater accuracy and euphoria for genealogists.

  • Name of each individual and the following for each:
  • Age as of the census day
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation of males over the age of fifteen
  • Value of real estate
  • whether married within the year
  • whether deaf-mute, blind, insane or idiotic
  • whether able to read or write for individuals over twenty-one years of age.
  • whether the person attended school within the previous year.

States and Territories included in this census were AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, Minnesota Territory (including the Dakota area), MS, MO, NH, NJ, New Mexico Territory (including Arizona area), NY, NC, OH, Oregon Territory (including Washington and Idaho areas), PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, Utah Territory, VT, VA (includes West Virginia counties), WI.

1860 Census

The 1860 U.S. Federal Census was much the same as the previous decade with a subtle change and expanded to include more developed areas of the United States of America. What was still missing was the relationship of individuals to the head of their household, which would become a tremendous resource in the following decades of census records.

  • Name of each individual and the following for each:
  • Age as of the census day
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation of males over the age of fifteen
  • Value of real estate
  • Whether married within the year
  • Whether deaf-mute, blind, insane or idiotic
  • Whether able to read or write for individuals over twenty-one years of age.
  • Whether the person attended school within the previous year.
  • Whether a pauper or a convict.

In addition, the census was expanded to include new areas; Dakota Territory, Kansas Territory (including parts of Colorado), Nebraska Territory (including parts of North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana), and Washington Territory.

1870 Census
1870 Census

1870 Census

The 1870 U.S. Federal Census, brought some exciting new information. Residences and families within those households were numbered by visitation and recorded in order. Enumerators were asked to gather the following information about each individual in a household:

  • Name of each individual and the following for each:
  • Age at last birthday and if under the age of one year, months were stated as fractions (ex. 2/12)
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Birthplace
  • Whether Mother and Father were of foreign birth.
  • Profession
  • Occupation of every male and female
  • Value of real estate
  • Whether married within the year and month
  • Whether deaf-mute, blind, insane or idiotic
  • Whether able to read or write
  • Whether the person attended school within the previous year.

1880 U.S. Federal Census

The 1880 U. S. Federal Census is one of the most important Census' for a few reasons. The first being it is the last complete record of this type for the latter part of the nineteenth century. Very little of the 1890 Census exists today. Secondly, it was the first census to include relationships, birthplaces of parents, and the first to use 'Indian' as a race class. Additional information which was included on the 1880 U.S. Federal Census:

  • Address including street and house number.
  • Name of each person in the household and relationship.
  • Age, Sex, Race, Marital Status, Ability to read and write.
  • Birthplace and Birthplace of Parents.
  • Occupation - trade or profession including number of months employed.
  • Health - blind, deaf and dumb, crippled, maimed, idiotic, insane, bedridden or otherwise disabled.

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census can be accessed for free at FamilySearch.org.

Image of 1880 Census
Image of 1880 Census

1890 U.S. Federal Census

Due to a fire in Commerce Department in Washington D.C. in January of 1921, most of the 1890 census records were destroyed. Today less than 1% of these records exist. Only a little more than six thousand records of people enumerated survived the nearly sixty three million records the census originally consisted of. 1890 was also the only Census to record a page per household, however, only little more than 1,200 pages and fragments exist. A great loss to the genealogical community.

Substitutes for this decade include Veterans Schedules, tax records, and community directories. 

1900 Census

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census brought in a new century and additional invaluable information for genealogists, a true glimpse into the lives of our ancestors, and filled with more data than on any other census. Enumerators were instructed to include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Relationship to Head of Household
  • Color or Race
  • Month and Year of Birth
  • Age at last Birthday
  • Marital Status
  • Number of Years Married
  • Total Number of children born to the mother
  • Number of those children living
  • Places of birth and birth places of each parents.
  • If the individual was foreign born
  • Year of immigration
  • Number of years in the United States
  • Citizenship status of foreign-born individuals over age twenty-one
  • Occupation
  • Whether they could read or write and speak English
  • Whether home was owned or rented
  • Whether the home was on a farm
  • Whether the home was mortgaged

By 1900 there were forty-five states in the Union, with Utah being the latest addition. Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Oklahoma as Territories.

 

1910 Census

The thirteenth Census of the United States began on April 15, 1910, the dates varied on the census pages but were to reflect the status of the household on April 15th of that year including individuals who had died between that date and the day the census was taken. The information the enumerators collected contained the following:

  • Name of street
  • House number or farm
  • Number of dwelling in order of visitation
  • Number of family in order of visitation
  • Name of every person who lived with the family
  • Relationship to head of the family
  • Sex, color or race, age at last birthday, marital status whether single, married, widowed or divorced
  • If married, number of years of present marriage
  • For mothers, number of children born and living
  • Birthplace of each individual and birthplace of mother and father
  • Year of immigration
  • Whether naturalized or not
  • Whether able to speak English, and if not, language spoken
  • Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done.
  • Industry, business or kind of establishment in which at work
  • Whether employer, employee or working on own account
  • If an employee, whether out of work on April 15, 1910 and number of weeks out of work during 1909
  • Able to read and write
  • Attended school at any time since September 1, 1909
  • Owned or rented home, mortgaged or owned free
  • Farm or house
  • Number of farm schedule (only applied to farms)
  • Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy
  • Whether blind, deaf or dumb

There were separate Indian population schedules which also recorded tribe and/or band.

The 1910 Census included all fifty states and Washington D.C. as well as Military and Naval Forces and Puerto Rico.

1920 Census

The U.S. Federal Census for 1920 began on January 1, 1920 and included all living individuals living in the abode on that date, even if an individual had become deceased by the time the enumeration was completed. Enumerators were instructed to include:

  • Name of street, Avenue, Road, etc.
  • House number or farm
  • Number of dwelling in order of visitation
  • Number of family in order of visitation
  • Name of every person who lived with the family
  • Relationship to head of the family
  • Sex, color or race, age at last birthday, marital status whether single, married, widowed or divorced
  • Birthplace of each individual and birthplace of mother and father
  • Mother and Father's native tongue
  • Year of immigration
  • Whether naturalized or alien
  • If naturalized, year of naturalization
  • Whether able to speak English, and if not, native tongue (language spoken)
  • Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done.
  • Industry, business or kind of establishment in which at work
  • Whether employer, salary or wage worker or working on own account
  • If an employee, whether out of work on April 15, 1910 and number of weeks out of work during 1909
  • Able to read and write
  • Attended school at any time since September 1, 1919
  • Owned or rented home, mortgaged or owned free
  • Farm or house
  • Number of farm schedule (only applied to farms)
  • Whether blind, deaf or dumb

Due to WWI and the boundary modifications in Europe, some individuals were uncertain about how to identify their national origin. Enumerators were instructed to spell out the name of the city, state, province or region of individuals who declared that they were born in or their parents were born in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey or Russia. Interpretation varied from one enumerator to another. Some failed to identify specifics within those countries while others provided an exact birthplace not specified in the instructions.

Native American Indians were included on the 1920 Census and did not have a separate census of their own. Servicemen were considered residents of their duty posts and enumerated accordingly. The 1920 Census includes schedules for overseas military and naval forces.

All 50 states and territories were included as well as Military and Naval Forces, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and for the first time Samoa, Guam, and the Panama Canal Zone.

1920 U.S. Federal Census
1920 U.S. Federal Census

1930 U.S. Federal Census

The 1930 Census was the largest census to date and included approximately 123,000,000 Americans. This census left of some imperative information but added others:

  • Address (name of street, avenue, road, etc.; house number)
  • Occupant (name of each individual in household and relationship to the Head of Household
  • Residence information (House or Farm; Owned or Rented; Value of Home; Whether home has a radio)
  • Personal information (Age, Sex, Marital Status, College attendance, ability to read and write; Birthplace and Birthplace of Parents)
  • Citizenship (language spoken before coming to United States; Year of immigration, Naturalized or Alien; Ability to speak English)
  • Occupation (Trade or profession, industry or business working in; class of worker, whether worked the previous day, line number of unemployment schedule)
  • Military (whether veteran or not; war or expedition participated in)

Individuals in Alaska and Native American Indians were asked slightly different questions such as; Indians were not asked country of origin of their mother but which tribe she belonged to.

1940 U.S. Federal Census

 The 1940 U.S. Federal Census is scheduled for release in the year 2012 and genealogist all over the United States of America are counting the days!

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Comments 10 comments

msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

Good points, Missi!!


Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California Author

msorensson thank you for your comment.


JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

Excellent Hub. I really like the census poll through out the year wow. I too was a bit disappointed in the questions asked. I thought it was going to be deeper than that.


Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you for your comment JannyC, I keep thinking that a 100 years from now when our ancestors are scouring census records about us, they wont even know what we did for a living. And for them to state that it's important for genealogy, obviously whoever wrote that, doesnt do genealogy.


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

I hurriedly filled mine out after finding it once again under a stack of must attend to letters and such, but I didn't realize the signifigance it played amongst genealogists! Thats amazing and I am so glad you wrote a hub about it, Missi!


Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you Ann. Genealogists rely heavily on census records and as you can see from this and pointed out their significance. Obviously the more information we have about our ancestors the better.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands

My genealogical interests lie in Europe, but I have bookmarked this hub ~ just in case :)


Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California Author

Thank you for commenting Trish_M. Happy to hear that you found it useful enough to bookmark. Happy Hunting.


premsingh profile image

premsingh 6 years ago

thanks missi for sharing the information.Census is very important activity as this provides a basis for developmental activities. It gave me an idea to write about census 2011 taking place shortly in India.


Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California Author

premsingh thank you for reading. Glad I inspired you. Look forward to reading your new hub!

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