Thursday, November 19, 2015

1900 Census Instructions for San Diego Enumerators

I was looking for articles about my Carringer grandparents and great-grandparents on GenealogyBank this afternoon, and ran across this excellent article about the 1900 U.S. Census in the San Diego Weekly Union newspaper, dated Thursday, 24 May 1900, on page 2:

The transcription of the article is:

The Rate of Compensation - The Word Family Has a Wide Application - Instructions to the Enumerators

"The San Diego census enumerators, whose names were mentioned in the Union several weeks ago, have received their commissions and the supplies to be used by them in taking the census of this city, and are now all ready to enter upon their duties.  The active work of enumeration is scheduled to begin promptly at 8 a.m. of June 1, and is to be completed in cities of 8,000 population or over by June 15.  Throughout the rural districts the enumeration will not be completed until June 30.  All enumerators will be required to work ten hours every day, and the pay for work is to be not less than $3 nor more than $6 per day.

"In this district the compensation will be as follows:  For each living inhabitant enumerated, 2-1/2 cents; for each farm returned, 17-1/2 cents; for each manufacturing establishment returned, 25 cents; for each death reported, 5 cents; for each person defective in sight, hearing or speech reported, 5 cents; for each prisoner reported, 5 cents; fr each proprietor reporting live stock not on farms or ranges, 5 cents.

"The supplies received by the enumerators here consist of six schedules, a portfolio, a badge to be worn when on official duty, two sets of daily report cards, two forms of certificate of completion of work of enumeration, a consolidated time report and a return penalty label.  The first schedule relates to the population, the second to the Indian population, the third to agriculture, the fourth to persons who have died during the census year, the fifth to persons defective in sight, hearing or speech, and the last to live stock not on farms or ranges.  At the close of each day's work, the enumerator must fill out a card, addressed to the census supervisor stating the number of persons, farms, etc., enumerated on the several schedules and the number of hours and minutes occupied.  A duplicate card must be sent to the director of the census at Washington.

"The enumerators, according to their instructions, have the right of admission to every dwelling and to every manufacturing or mechanical establishment for the purpose of obtaining the necessary information.  They have also the right to put every question contained in the census schedules, and to obtain answers to all of them.  The enumerator is advised not to accept statements which he believes to be false.  By giving away information obtained by him in the discharge of his official duties he is rendered liable to a fine not exceeding $500.  The enumerators will not be allowed to comine with their work, any other occupation, such as canvassing for directory publishers, or the sale or advertisement of any article whatever.

"June 1 is known as the "census day" and each question on the schedules will be answered with reference to that day, all changes occurring after that time being disregarded.  For instance, if a family is visited on June 4 in which a marriage took place June 2, the parties will be entered single, because they were so June 1.  Any person who is alive on June 1, even if he should die before the enumerator visits his dwelling, will be classed as alive.

"The word family, for census purposes, has a much wider application than it has in ordinary speech, and means a group of individuals who occupy jointly a dwelling or part of a dwelling place.  A person who boards in one place and lodges in another is to be returned as a member of the family where he lodges.  A domestic servant, unless she sleeps elsewhere, is to be returned as a member of the family in which she works.  All the occupants and employes of a hotel, if they regularly sleep there, make up for census purposes a single family, because they occupy one dwelling place.

"As the census family may thus be much larger than the natural family, so it may also be much smaller, for one person dwelling alone is to be returned as a family.  A clerk in a store, who regularly sleeps there, is to be reported as a family, and the store as his dwelling place.  The transient guests of a hotel are not to be enumerated as of the hotel, unless they are likely otherwise to be omitted from the enumeration.

"The number of enumerators in this district, of which Frank Davis of Los Angeles is supervisor, is 248, and among them will be at least twenty-five women.  Judge Davis, it is said, is finding it exceptionally hard to obtain men to canvass the desert sections.  There are places in the San Bernardino desert where enumerators will be compelled to travel for sixty miles or more in order to obtain the name and pedigree of one inhabitant, and to do this, will require a team or saddle horse, which will cost the enumerator $5 to $10 a day, besides his other expenses.

"Supervisor Davis expects to have the enumeration completed by Sept. 1.  His salary is to be paid to him in a lump sum, and as he will obtain a total of $1,250 for his work, there will be no object in delay.  The pay of supervisors was originally fixed at an even $100, but the compensation has recently been changed by act of Congress.  The statistics upon manufacturing and public institutions will be taken later by special agents sent out for the purpose from Washington."

That was an interesting and informative article.  I can't imagine riding a horse or a team for 10-15 hours 60 miles into the desert in early June!  On the population schedule, there were 50 lines, so if an enumerator completed one page he would earn $1.25.

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bgwiehle said...

One interesting point in the excerpted article was that there were 7 schedules, including a Mortality Schedule. I have, of course, used the 1900 Population Schedule, available on multiple sites. And has "U.S., Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940" for the Native population.

According to NARA [], "The 1900 census consisted originally of seven schedules. Two population schedules were prepared, one for native Americans and one for all other residents. These are the schedules that are reproduced as microfilm publication T623. The five remaining schedules, containing information on agriculture, manufacturers, mortality, and crime, are not available from the National Archives." No reason is given that those schedules were not archived, but statistical summaries are available on for some of that data.

Onepony2002 said...

What cost $1.25 in 1900 would cost $35.01 in 2014.

(from the inflation calculator at

Jan Murphy said...

Imagine taking the 1920 Census in January!

Jo Henn said...

Thank you for sharing this. I found it fascinating. I wanted to let you know that I've included this post in my Noteworthy Reads for this week: