Census 2010: A family history perspective

Pia Lopez of the SacBee opines that the census is much more than How Many People, What Ages are they? She describes all her family history that’s contained in census past. She recounts everything she knows of her family history that’d be lost if a proposed law that asks Just Four Questions Only (name, age, date of response, number of people living in one household) had been in force at the time her ancestors filled out the census. enacted.

From my family’s oral history, I knew that my mother’s grandfather had left Ireland for New York in 1893 and that he worked for James Butler’s Irish neighborhood grocery store chain.

But the June 6, 1900, census snapshot fills in a whole lot more fascinating detail. Martin E. Roache lived at 551 W. 152nd St., near Broadway (one block from the Hudson River) in Washington Heights, Manhattan. He was boarding with the Schmidt family.

The husband, age 42, had arrived from Germany in 1875 and was a baker. The wife, age 39, was born in New York, the daughter of a German immigrant and a native-born New Yorker. They had two children, ages 10 and 5. The older child was attending school. A 21-year-old German, non-English-speaking, non-literate immigrant man, who had arrived only two years before, was a servant. My great-grandfather, age 27, was a “tea buyer” by occupation.

The block on which he lived was a cornucopia of diversity. It had Swedish, Irish and German immigrants. It had the children of immigrants. A few people were from Kentucky, standing out among the native-born New Yorkers. Most people could speak English and could read and write, but some could not. In addition to the baker, the block had bookkeepers, salesmen, clerks, a stationary manufacturer, a hardware storekeeper. Many of the immigrants were cooks/nurses/servants in the households on the block. My great-grandfather was the only boarder.

Each census has contained this kind of invaluable information about individuals and about particular places, from the most rural in northern New Mexico to the most urban in New York. [Read More]

If you are given the long form this year, the actual form itself will not be viewable to the public until 2082. Do you think you’ll care about your responses then? Can you think of anyone who’d be interested in that information?

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 05, 2010 in • GenealogyHistoryPersonal History
1 CommentsPermalink

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I am amazed at the number of people who are crying foul about the census. I am one of those people who has benefited from old census reports during my research.

Alice Keesey Mecoy  on 01/17  at  05:54 PM

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