Tuesday, December 9, 2008

So What's In A Census?

My goodness, where do I begin? It really depends entirely on which one you're looking at. Very early census records (prior to 1850) contain simple facts - the name of the Head of Household and the number of people in age groups and genders living in the home. In 1850 the census became a bit more detailed, listing the names and ages of all the people in the house. Seems every census following gave us a little more info.. just a little tidbit more about the family that we keep searching for. For instance, the 1910 census details how many children have been born to a woman and how many of those children are still living at the time of the census. A bit intrusive yes, but how else would I have known that my Grandmother had another aunt and uncle born in Canada before the family even came to the US? Aha! Yes! another gleaming gem for a genealogist to go chasing after!

Later census records list the birthplace of each person AND their parents - so maybe you know that Great Granddad lived in Virginia, do you know if he was born there? Do you know where his parents were born? Many census records can answer this, or at least give you a lead to follow. Of course there are always possibilities of error - maybe Great Granddad didn't know where his parents were born so he guessed. Yes, this did happen so be careful - checking his parents records for earlier years will give way to more clues and more answers!

Working backward from 1930 (the latest census made public) you can trace a family in an area and get detailed information on them every ten years back, allowing you to then follow Great Great Grandad to the home of his parents - where you might just get the info on where THEIR parents were born and so on. So, check out some census records for your family - you might be surprised what you find!

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