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Volume 8, Number 4 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 February 17, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article, our discussion of the Census records moves into the 20th Century. Each Census asks more questions which gives you additional areas to research about your ancestors. It is very important to understand the history of the area where your ancestors lived so that you can understand their lives better. As always, we enjoy hearing your comments after each article!
James L. Douthat
1900, 1910 and 1920 Census Findings We now turn to the 20th century census. The first of these is the 1900 Federal Census. In this census, we find a more expanded line of questions. It is here that we find some of the more important items in our research. After the usual name, sex, and age, the expansion of month and year is added to the date of birth. This is important when going ahead with your research as it now pins down a little closer the age of the individual.
The enumerator now turns to the marriage itself. They ask about the year of the marriage and how many children did the couple have. When getting a full listing of siblings, this is vital. The next question is of great importance also as the enumerator now ask how many of those children are still living in 1900. This is when you find you have lost one or two of the siblings. When trying to reconstruct the family group sheets, you need to have an idea of the numbers of children and their relative ages. You can now begin to make the listing with the date of birth and the number of children, you have a good start. If we take an average two year separation span for children, we can find when some of the siblings died or are missing. At this time period, it is interesting that most children come in two year separations. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a rule of thumb to help with the reconstruction of the family group sheets.
Now pay attention closely to the location of the place of birth of the child, father, and mother. When trying to locate the records of individuals, it helps to know where to look. It make no sense to be looking for a family in Texas by searching Texas records when all of the children are born in three different states and the parents being born in two other states. In a situation like this, it tells me that the family was on the move from the state of the parents through the other three states before coming to Texas. Now comes the fun part of your research. You will need to search all five other states for some tidbit of information on each of the individuals. In your search, you might find grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.
In the latter part of the questioning in 1900, there is a couple of questions about “year of immigration” followed by the question of “years in the United States”. Here we might discover that some of the children were actually born in a foreign country. This might lead our search overseas for completion. Finally, the enumerator searches for information on occupation and remarks. Pay close attention to any remarks as they are probably very important for your search for information on the family.
Turning to the 1910 Federal Census we find much the same information as the 1900 census, but now there is greater attention to the education of the individuals. Questions are being ask about the employment such as are they self-employed or unemployed. In these 20th century census, we have to be aware of the civil divisions within each county. These might be different from year to year as internal divisions within a county change frequently. In later census, we will find that even cities are divided into districts, boroughs and other sections. You might want to begin a study of the county of interest to understand some of the political changes within that county to help clarify your ancestors. This is where Deed Books, Tax Records and even School Districts will come into play and are important in helping to find your ancestors within that county.
In the 1920 Federal Census, the enumerators were instructed to ascertain if a person within the household does not belong and they are listed as a “boarders and lodgers”. A person was to be counted in the household where they slept. If they sleep in the house of the employers, then they can be counted there if they are not counted elsewhere. This became important with regards to construction camps, i.e. railroad, canal, convict, State farms, etc. We find that even in hotels, the residents are counted there as they would not be counted elsewhere. I personally have depended on the “hotel” listing in our local history as the town was not created until 1919 and there was a huge hotel in the area that actually gave rise to the town later. Residents in the hotel were important to the development of the history of the area. Take your information where you find it and use it as needed later.
Good luck with the 20th century census. They really expand our knowledge and background information on our families.
Monroe County, KY - 1900, 1910, 1920
Bland County, VA 1920 Census
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