Friday, March 20, 2020

2020 Census

The notification to complete the 2020 United States federal census arrived at my home.

This is the nation's 24th.

For the first time, the questions can be answered online.

Questions included:
Date of birth
Hispanic or not
Relationships between inhabitants and head

We do this every ten years because it's in the Constitution. The old-fashioned term is Enumeration. We now generally refer to it as the Census.

The census is a wonderful tool for genealogists to glimpse people every ten years.

The most recent census available for viewing is from 1940. The 1950 census will be released in the year 2022.

(The federal census in New Jersey is missing for 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1820.)

The first census was in 1790. Everyone was counted, but some people counted more than others. Only the head of the household was listed.

Questions from 1790 were:
Name of head of household
Number of free white males 16 or older
Number of free white males under age 16
Number of free white females
Number of other people
Number of slaves

Below is the handwritten form for Northfield, Richmond County, New York.

The numbers of categories of people were tallied at the end of the district.

While the census is a great resource, the obvious problem with listing only the head of household is that you cannot be certain that you have the correct person of interest.

In Northfield are three men named John Merrell. Which one is my 7th great grandfather? I would need to find all of these men in other records and try to distinguish them based on ages of sons and daughters (if mentioned in wills or deeds) and slaves (mentioned in wills, tax records, and possibly other surviving records).

Only writing the head of household was an efficient way of conducting the first enumeration. This practice continued until the 1850 census, when the names of all free inhabitants were written.