Our census form arrived.  In a word:  B-O-R-I-N-G.

It's a good thing for future genealogists that we have so many other forms of record-keeping, because they won't get much from the 2010 census.  Name, sex, date of birth, race in excruciating detail if you're Hispanic, Asian, or Pacific Islander (Dominican? Hmong? Fijian?), relationship to head-of-household (now inoffensively called "Person 1" — also in excruciating detail, distinguishing, for example, between biological and adopted children, which genealogists will love, if no one else).  That's only if you're one of the first six people in the household.  For Persons 7 through 12 they don't care about your race or exact relationship.  And if you're the 11th child in the family?  Apparently you're out of luck, but I suspect that may be covered by the "we may call for additional information" caveat that goes with the questions for Persons 7 - 12, since there's also a place to indicate the total number of people in the household.

I wrote before about the interesting information in previous censuses, but I'll repeat it for this occasion.

  • 1820 - Not much besides a breakdown by age range, color, slave/free/citizenship status, and whether in agriculture, commerce, or manufacturing.
  • 1830 - Was anyone in the household blind?
  • 1850 - A big year for genealogists—the first time everyone was listed by name, rather than merely by head-of-household.  Place of birth was also added.  Other questions concerned value of real estate owned, school attendance, literacy, and whether or not the person was "deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict?"
  • 1870 - Were the person's parents of foreign birth?
  • 1880 - Another good one for genealogists, as they started asking where the person's parents were born, and also marital status.  The sick/disabled status was expanded and broken down instead of being lumped together.
  • 1890 - Lots of great data for genealogists here; unfortunately all but a very small number of these records were destroyed in a fire.  The racial breakdown for this census was "White, Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian."
  • 1900 - How many years married, how many children born to mothers, how many of those still living—through this census I found my grandfather's sister.  Lots of questions about employment and living situations.  Also year of immigration, and naturalization status.
  • 1910 - Mother tongue of person and his parents; number of years of present marriage, and whether the marriage is first or subsequent.  Is the person an employee, employer, or self-employed?
  • 1930 - The race question gets more specific:  Enumerators were to enter "W" for white, "Neg" for black, "Mex" for Mexican, "In" for American Indian, "Ch" for Chinese, "Jp" for Japanese, "Fil" for Filipino, "Hin" for Hindu, and "Kor" for Korean. All other races were to be written out in full.
  • 1940 - April 1, 2012 is the date genealogists are waiting for:  the 1940 census data will finally be released.  (There's a 72-year wait for reasons of privacy.)  It should be fascinating, as it includes many detailed questions about the family's housing situation, including lighting, sanitary facilities, heating, number of rooms, and much more.  Unfortunately, these detailed questions were only asked of five percent of the population.
  • 1950 - This is getting closer to home, but we won't see it till 2022.  I wonder what they had to say about our house, if we were lucky enough to win the 5% sample lottery.
  • 1960 - I'll be in this one!  I hope I live to see it.  Alas, for most of us this will be a really dull census, as most households were only asked for age, sex, race, and marital status data.  B-O-R-I-N-G!
Sometimes the questions say as much about the nature of the country as do the answers.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Edit
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Along with the "ear of immigration," did they also ask for the nose of trustworthiness and the adam's apple of friendship?

Posted by Stephan on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 1:18 am

Oh, dear. Fixed it in both posts. Thanks!

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 8:38 am

I just discovered something I didn't notice when making my post— Despite this year's detailed questions about race, distinguishing, for example, between Hmong and Laotian, if you are not Asian, Pacific Islander, or Native American, your choices are a stark White or "Black, African Am., or Negro." Nothing there for someone of mixed white and black heritage, not even as much choice as in several earlier census when "mulatto" was an option, certainly not the choices in 1890 of "White, Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon." Doesn't seem fair.

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 1:07 pm
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