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United States Census

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    United States Census


    I've been dabbling in genealogy for the past three years, mainly through It seems that both sides of my family arrived in the US 200+ years ago. The latest arrival was at some point before 1820, when my 3rd great-grandfather on my mother's side immigrated from Switzerland.

    I've found that the US Census records are a great help in identifying the correct people. But there are varying formats, and sometimes the way that the information that is presented can be misleading.

    For example, I rejected a census record for my grandfather because the census put his initials between his first and last name. So, I mistakenly thought the person I was looking at had two middle initials, and that he was not my grandfather.

    After additional examination and cross referencing, I was able to confirm that the census record was indeed for my grandfather. I still to this day have no idea why the census takers do that with initials, but I've seen it other records, as well.

    This brings me to my question: Are there any resources out there that can help me learn some background and history about the US census?

    Or these the type of thing you are looking for?
    Links under Administering the Census
    History of the census up to 1900.
    Essex - family and local history.


      These might help.


        keldon thank you for that link. Within the link, there is another title History of Enumeration Procedures

        that was interesting.

        nickedemus the lesson I was taught early on when I started: US censuses were written by the enumerator not the resident. And the enumerator was not required to ask the resident how to spell their name. Also, I was told (no evidence given) that enumerators were paid for each name on the page. The above link gives this:

        In 1880, at a pay-rate of ten cents per one hundred names, enumerators recopied the names from their population schedules into an alphabetized ledger, together with information on each individual's age, sex, and race

        It's always a problem when employing a large number of people to keep everyone doing things with the same quality control. And these people worked for a few months and moved on.

        Another important thing that I was told early on: censuses were not taken for the purpose of genealogy! So it isn't always convenient for our research, but it served its purpose at the time.
        My Families
        London-area Coverly Family Finder DNA Project