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Census Snippets

Census Snippets

September 13, 2023

Census records can feel overwhelming at times. So many columns, such tiny print, and the sloppy handwriting! However, they provide a wealth of information. The census is a snapshot of life, taken every ten years, that places your ancestors in a certain location. Not only that, but it also places our ancestors within groups of people and gives information about them that we may not find anywhere else.

Here is a list of my favorite pieces of information found in each census from 1850-1950.

1850:  This is the first census to list the name of every individual in the household. Prior to 1850, the head of household was the only person named.

1860:  The value of real estate is listed in many census years, but this is the first census to note the value of personal estate.

1870:  This is the first census to ask question about immigration. Not only does it include the person’s place of birth, but it also asks if their parents are foreign born.

1880:  This census is the first to list a person’s relationship to the head of household.

1890:  Most of the 1890 census was destroyed in the 1921 fire at the Commerce Department Building. If you can find anything from the remains of this census, then you are a lucky genealogist!

1900:  This is the only census that lists birth month and year for everyone enumerated.

1910:  This census lists veterans of the Civil War, and notes if they are union or confederate, army or navy (UA, UN, CA, or CN). If they were a union soldier, this information is helpful for finding them on the 1890 veteran’s schedule.

1920:  This is the only census to ask for the mother tongue of both parents.

1930:  In 1930, families were asked if they owned a radio. Only 40.3% of all families owned a radio in 1930.

1940:  The person who gave the information for the family is marked with an “X.” This is the only census that notes the informant.

1950:  The individual is asked if they served in World War I, World War II, or any other military service.

Take the time to study all of the columns in each census result for your ancestors. You may be surprised at what is revealed! At Midwest Genealogy Center we have fillable census forms available on our website. Sign up for our next Census Records Research class for more information on what the census can do for your research!

Emily T.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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