Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Except for the US government, I think probably genealogists are far more interested in the censuses than anyone else. In fact, we get downright excited about them.

Have you ever looked at a digitized copy of your family as they appeared on a census? The National Archives branches have microfilmed copies of all the censuses from the first, taken in 1790, to the most recently released census, taken in 1930. And there are a couple of places on the internet that enable you to see the digitized copies.

Here’s why we get excited: above is a copy of the 1920 Federal Census for Caldwell County, Kansas – not the whole page but a portion of the page where the family of my mother and grandmother are shown

You can see my whole family: My grandpa Byrd Ryland (the census taker wrote it down the way he heard it), my grandma Jessie, and all my aunts and uncles when they were little kids. Uncle Bob, Aunt Florence, my mother Virginia, Aunt Marie, and Uncle Bert. My Uncle Hugh and Aunt Margie were both born after 1920, so they don’t appear. It also shows my Great Grandfather, James A. Ryland, as well as the ages for all of them.

So we genealogists love censuses. It tells us thing about our families that perhaps we didn’t know. Censuses are kept private for 70 years, and then it takes about another two years for them to be readied for public viewing. The 1930 census was released for viewing in 2002. The 1940 census will appear about 2012. And there I will be able to see myself listed as a little 5 year old!

The US is gearing up for the 2010 census that will capture what our nation looks like at this point in time. Census takers are being trained, materials are being readied, and lots of publicity can be found in newspapers and TV stressing the importance of being counted. And it IS important to be counted. 310 million Americans will get their census questionnaires in the mail sometimes in mid-March. There will be some individual census takers following up personally when questionnaires aren’t mailed back to the government. And of course it is really important for each state to have an accurate count in order to get their fair share of federal dollars.

Yesterday, Robert Groves, director of the US Census Bureau, arrived by dog sled similar to the one above in the tiny town of Noorvik, Alaska, home of some 600 people and chosen as the place to kick off the 2010 census. By mid-March, the residents of Noorvik mostly will be scattered over the area in their yearly hunt for seal, moose and caribou, so an accurate count for the census then would be nigh impossible to take. So the Eskimos, Americans all, were counted yesterday, and counts of 200+ other remote villages will follow shortly.

And for genealogists in 2082 they will be the people who are most anxious for the results of this year’s census to be opened to the public. Hopefully this census will be as rich in information and as satisfying to them as all of them though 1930 have been to us.

1 comment:

Gene Dixon said...

Amen to all that you said!