Perhaps one of the most exciting hobbies to emerge in the last decade is Genealogy and the research of one’s family tree. With companies like Ancestry, people are eager to get involved in learning about their family tree and the census can be the key!
At the same time I am writing this, I am hearing all sorts of debates on the next U.S. Census; specially the questions it may contain.
There seems to be a bit of controversy on the question of citizenship that is being proposed for inclusion on the next census. The concern being that households may not fully participate if they have fears about their immigration status being used to increase the chance of deportation.
Without getting into that debate, I do want to discuss the history of the U.S. Census.
I mention both these topics: Genealogy and the recent debate about the census questions – because one leads to the other.
The key issue is to understand the purpose of the census and reason for the data.
The U.S. Constitution requires a national census to determine the correct number of members to the House of Representatives. This was a system of fairness and Marshals were dispatched to get it right.
But was it? And, did they get it right?
In the first census there were few categories of people – free, white males were grouped into two categories based on age. Free white females, lumped together. Then another column for everyone else, except slaves – they got their own column.
This system of categories and questions grew to become a statisticians dream. Growing to include all sorts of data, like literacy and school attendance, which first appeared on the 1840 census.
There is a ton of data in these census. I have researched my family tree and thanks to the census records, I tracked their military service – because of pensions (found on some census), their households, and their lifestyle.
As a result, I was eligible to join the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Descendants of the Mexican War Veterans. Both are lineage societies and because I was able to prove I was a direct descendant (using census data), I was able to join.
I would love to tell you more. In fact I am breaking down each census, and sharing what information and what questions each census contains.
This would be of great use in tracing your own family tree.
My subscribers are already receiving my 3 part series on the U.S. Census.
I’d love to share it with you as well. If you’re interested and want to receive the information (free, of course) just let me know.