US Census: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

The US Census is massive and might seem impersonal, but sometimes it is highly personal. The image above is from a page of the 1900 census. I am so fascinated by many things about it. I wanted to share a few.   

Line #9 lists “infant daughter” – That’s my grandmother making her first appearance. I find it extraordinary that she was a month old but not yet named. That name becomes very important in my life because my daughter is named after her over 100 years later. Funny side note: in a later census, my grandmother is listed as “Emmer” instead of “Emma.” I wonder if that’s how the census taker interpreted my great grandparent’s thick Georgia accents.  

Handwritten – A census taker, who is listed at the top, did in-person interviews and completed it by hand. I’m writing this blog on my laptop. You’re reading it on some kind of electronic device. The day this census was completed, these items couldn’t have been imagined. If you haven’t already, you can complete your 2020 census ONLINE. It only took me about 10 minutes. 

Continuity of the US census – Very few things remain the same, but the methodical counting of US citizens has survived. For more than two centuries our government has taken a count of each citizen every 10 years. This was the 12th census while the 2020 census is the 24th.  I can’t begin to imagine how many different ways that information has been used. From the funding of my children’s schools to my representative in Congress, this data touches me every day.  

Public uses of info – Seeing this census made me wonder if the info I submitted this year would be public. I was reassured to learn that it won’t. The individual records are sealed for 72 years. The last census info to be released was from the 1940 census in 2012. That’s encouraging. But, the information will be hard at work helping communities, like yours, get their piece of trillions of dollars in government funding for the next decade.

I like to imagine that some future generation will search records and find my name on the 2020 census. I wonder what technology they will use to do that. I also wonder what they’ll learn about me. 

The current census is important because of the impact it will have on our future. It only takes a few minutes to complete it. If you haven’t already, click here to complete it.  

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