Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Tuesday's Tip: Use the 1920 United States Federal Census

The record collection for the 1920 United States Federal Census is one of my favorite record collections.  It is available in digital format online at:

*  Ancestry.com ($$) - 107,684,837 entries

*  MyHeritage.com ($$) - 107,445,111 entries

*  Findmypast.com (Free) - 107,126,105 entries

*  FamilySearch.org (Free) - 107,660,169 entries

I have no idea why the number of entries are different at each provider.  Perhaps it is because some providers permit an alternate user-provided index entry for enumerated persons.

The description of the 1920 United States Federal Census collection on Ancestry.com says (typical for a state collection):
This database is an every name index to individuals enumerated in the 1920 United States Federal Census, the Fourteenth Census of the United States. In addition, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to actual images of the 1920 Federal Census, copied from the National Archives and Records Administration microfilm, T625, 2,076 rolls. (If you do not initially find the name on the page that you are linked to, try a few pages forward or backward, as sometimes different pages had the same page number.)
What Areas are Included:  
The 1920 census includes all fifty U.S. states and territories, as well as Military and Naval Forces, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and for the first time American Samoa, Guam, and the Panama Canal Zone.
Why Census Records are Important:
Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do the U.S. federal censuses. The population schedules are successive "snapshots" of Americans that depict where and how they were living at particular periods in the past. Because of this, the census is often the best starting point for genealogical research after home sources have been exhausted.
Some Enumerator Instructions:
The 1920 Census was begun on 1 January 1920. The actual date of the enumeration appears on the heading of each page of the census schedule, but all responses were to reflect the individual's status as of 1 January, even if the status had changed between 1 January and the day of enumeration. For example, children born between 1 January and the day of enumeration were not to be listed, while individuals alive on 1 January but deceased when the enumerator arrived were to be counted.
The following questions were asked by enumerators:
  • Name of street, avenue road, etc.
  • House number or farm
  • Number of dwelling in order of visitation
  • Number of family in order of visitation
  • Name of each person whose place of abode was with the family
  • Relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family
  • Whether home owned or rented; if owned, whether free or mortgaged
  • Sex
  • Color or race
  • Age at last birthday
  • Whether single, married, widowed, or divorced
  • Year of immigration to United States
  • Whether naturalized or alien
  • If naturalized, year of naturalization
  • Whether attended school any time since 1 September 1919
  • Whether able to read
  • Whether able to write
  • Person's place of birth
  • Mother tongue
  • Father's place of birth
  • Father's mother tongue
  • Mother's place of birth
  • Mother's mother tongue
  • Whether able to speak English
  • Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done
  • Industry, business, or establishment in which at work
  • Whether employer, salary or wage worker, or working on own account
  • Number of farm schedule
Due to boundary modifications in Europe resulting from World War I, some individuals were uncertain about how to identify their national origin. Enumerators were instructed to spell out the name of the city, state, province, or region of respondents who declared that they or their parents had been born in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, or Turkey. Interpretation of the birthplace varied from one enumerator to another. Some failed to identify specific birthplaces within those named countries, and others provided an exact birthplace in countries not designated in the instructions.
There are no separate Indian population schedules in the 1920 census. Inhabitants of reservations were enumerated in the general population schedules. Enumerators were instructed not to report servicemen in the family enumerations but to treat them as residents of their duty posts. The 1920 census includes schedules for overseas military and naval forces.
Here is an example from the FamilySearch census for one person:

I searched each record provider for some of my exact surnames of interest.  The results are:

*  Seaver               2258 (on Ancestry)
                              1910 (on MyHeritage)
                              1910 (on Findmypast)
                              1911 (on Family Search)

*  Carringer             391 (on Ancestry)
                                229 (on MyHeritage)
                                229 (on Findmypast)
                                229 (on Family Search)

*  Auble                  423 (on Ancestry)
                                341 (on MyHeritage)
                                341 (on Findmypast)
                                338 (on Family Search)

*  Vaux                    359  (on Ancestry)
                                299 (on MyHeritage)
                                299 (on Findmypast)
                                234 (on Family Search) 

*  Smith         1,150,537 (on Ancestry)
1,115,240 (on MyHeritage)
1,115,014 (on Findmypast)
                       1,116,590 (on Family Search)

FamilySearch, MyHeritage and Findmypast have almost the same number of entries for each surname except Smith - I think FamilySearch provided the index and images for this collection to Findmypast and MyHeritage.

Ancestry,com and FamilySearch created separate census indexes using paid and/or volunteer indexers.  The differences in numbers between providers for a specific surname is probably due to some of the providers permitting a user-submitted addition to the index.

It is important to understand what this collection represents and includes.  This collection is paper records created by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1920, copied to microfilm and provided in digital format in 1992 to the digital record providers for a fee.  The record providers then used paid or volunteer indexers to create the different indexes.

These records are Original Source records, with Primary Information (state, county, town address) and Secondary Information (for everything else), and Indirect Evidence of the person's name, age, and other items.

I use this database extensively to find my ancestors, my relatives, and other persons in my family tree.  I usually download the record image to my computer for my ancestors, summarize the information for each person in the household, and enter a Census event for the household, with the official census date, the census place, and craft a source citation.  I add a Note for each person with the location, date, and household summary information, and add a Media item for each person in the household of my ancestral families.

For those interested in mining this record collection for Hints of persons in their Ancestry Member Tree, the Ancestry.com database number is 6061.  Currently, I have over 3,860 Hints for persons in my Ancestry Member Tree who are indexed in this record collection.  I work on them occasionally, adding content and source citations to profiles in my RootsMagic family tree.  Of course, I have some accepted Hints from this collection already in my RootsMagic family tree and my Ancestry Member Tree, but not many.

I have not attached many MyHeritage Hints to my MyHeritage tree, which is now a year out of date.  On MyHeritage, I have 2,642 pending Record Matches for persons in my MyHeritage tree.


NOTE:  Tuesday's Tips is a genealogy blog meme intended to provide information about a resource helpful to genealogists and family historians, especially in the U.S. online genea-world.

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Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

Marian B. Wood said...

Two of my fave Census years were 1900 and 1910 because of questions regarding month/year of birth and how many children a woman has had/how many living. Solved any number of mysteries due to these answers!

Wishing you and Linda a happy 2020.