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See also supplemental questionnaires.

t Available on supplemental questionnaires at the National Archives and Records Administration.

* Sample question.

1Free White persons only.

2Question only asked of free inhabitants.

3Question was whether insane or idiotic.

4ln 1960, place of birth was asked on a sample basis generally, but on a 100-percent basis in New York and Puerto Rico. Citizenship was asked

only in New York and Puerto Rico, where it was a 100-percent item. 5Question was only whether parents were foreign bom. 6For males 21 years of age or over. 7Whether person could speak English. In 1900, this was the only question; in 1920 and 1930 this question was in addition to request for mother


8Asked only outside cities.
90n housing portion of questionnaire.


Measuring America

A note about microfilmed schedules for genealogy.

Please note that the microfilmed images of schedules completed by an enumerator can have abbreviations, titles, comments, and even "doodles," that do not correspond to any information contained in the instructions given to each enumerator. In such cases, the meaning of this entry has been lost with the enumerator. Furthermore, schedules will frequently have entries (within the schedule or its margins) that seem to have no relation to the question asked. The meaning of these entries have been lost so many years since the marks were made. Although these entries may indeed relate to the household, they often are related to the administrative duties conducted during receipt and tabulation of the schedules by Census Bureau clerks. For example, the letters "JGG" (or any other letters, numbers, or words) next to or within an entry may have been the initials of a Census Bureau clerk, used to indicate where he/she stopped for lunch or the end of the workday, or a manager making an administrative note, such as a shift change. Thus, abbreviations/marks found on the microfilms that are not explicitly identified within the instructions to the enumerators are impossible to definitively understand.


Censuses of 1790 to 1840

A nationwide population census on a regular basis dates from the establishment of the United States. Article I, Section 2, of the United States Constitution required that—

"Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term often years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.3"

Starting with the 1800 census, the Secretary of State directed the enumeration and, from 1800 to 1840, the marshals reported the results to him. From 1850 through 1900, the Interior Department, established in 1849, had jurisdiction.

Jln subsequent decades, the practice of "service for a term of years" died out. "Indians not taxes" were those not living in settled areas and paying taxes; by the 1940s, all American Indians were considered to be taxed. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, officially ended Article 1 's "three-fifths rule." Thus, the original census requirements were modified. Direct taxation based on the census never became practical.

The 1800 and 181 0 population censuses were similar in scope and method to the 1 790 census. However, the Congress, statisticians, and other scholars urged that while the populace was being enumerated, other information the new government needed also should be collected. The first inquiries on manufacturing were made in 1810 and, in later decades, censuses of agriculture, mining, governments, religious bodies (discontinued after 1946), business, housing, and transportation were added to the decennial census. (Legislation enacted in 1948 and later years specified that the various economic, agriculture, and government censuses would be taken at times that did not conflict with those in which the population and housing censuses occurred.)

The 1830 census related solely to population. The marshals and their assistants began using uniform printed schedules; before that, they had to use whatever paper was available, rule it, write in the headings, and bind the sheets together.

The census act for the 1 840 census authorized the establishment of a centralized census office during each enumeration and provided for the collection of statistics pertaining to "the pursuits, industry, education, and resources of the country." The new population inquiries included school attendance, illiteracy, and type of occupation.

From 1790 through the 1840 census, the household, not the individual, was the unit of enumeration in the population census, and only the names of the household heads appeared on the schedules. There was no tabulation beyond the simple addition of the entries the marshals had submitted, and there was no attempt to publish details uniformly by cities or towns, or to summarize returns for each state, other than by county, unless the marshals had done so.

Censuses of 1850 to 1890

The act governing the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Decennial Censuses (1850-1870) made several changes in census procedures: Each marshal was responsible for subdividing his district into "known civil divisions," such as counties, townships, or wards, and for checking to ensure that his assistants' returns were completed properly. The number of population inquiries grew; every free person's name was to be listed, as were the items relating to each individual enumerated. Beginning in 1850, marshals collected additional "social statistics" (information about taxes, schools, crime, wages, value of estate, etc.) and data on mortality. [Decennial mortality schedules for some states and territories exist for 1850-1880 and for a few places in 1885; see Table 2.]

Noteworthy features of the 1870 census included the introduction of a rudimentary tally device to help the clerks in their work and the publications of maps, charts, and diagrams to illustrate the most significant census results.

The general scope of the 1880 census was expanded only slightly over that of 1 870, but much greater detail was

Measuring America

125 obtained for many of the items—so much more that, beyond the basic counts, which were released promptly, publication of these data was not completed until nearly 1890.

The census act of 1880 replaced the marshals and their assistants with specially appointed agents (experts assigned to collect technical data, such as on manufacturing processes), supervisors, and enumerators, every one of whom was forbidden to disclose census information. Maintaining the confidentiality of the data was a result of what some people regarded as the census' invasion of privacy, especially since prior to the 1880 census, there was no law limiting the extent to which the public could use or see the information on any schedule. (Subsequent demographic and economic censuses, as well as most surveys, have been carried out according to statutes that make compliance mandatory, with penalties for refusal; and responses confidential, with penalties for disclosure. Congress codified these laws in 1954 as Title 1 3, U.S. Code.) For the first time, enumerators were given detailed maps to follow, so they could account for every street or road and not stray beyond their assigned boundaries. (The National Archives' Cartographic and Architectural Branch maintains this map collection.4)

Again, in 1890, there was an extension of the decennial census's scope, and some subjects were covered in even greater detail than in 1880. Data were collected in supplemental surveys on farm and home mortgages and private corporations' and individuals' indebtedness. The 1890 census also used, for the first time in history, a separate schedule for each family.

Herman Hollerith, who had been a special agent for the 1880 census, developed punch cards and electric tabulating machines to process the 1890 census returns, considerably reducing the time needed to complete the clerical work. (Hollerith's venture became part of what is now the IBM Corporation.) Both the cards and the machines were improved progressively over the next 50 years.5

The 1890 census was historic in another way. In the first volume of the results, the Superintendent of the Census wrote—

"Up to and including 1880, the country had a frontier of settlement, but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In

the discussion of its extent, its westward movement, etc., it can not, therefore, any longer have a place in the census reports.6

Commenting on this statement, historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in 1893 that, "up to our own day, American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development."7 The censuses that followed 1890 reflected the filling in, rather than the expansion of, the colonized areas; symbolizing a turning point in America's development as a Nation.

Censuses of 1900 to 2000

Although the censuses in the early 1900s did not witness the expansion of inquiries as had been witnessed in the late nineteenth century, geographic coverage of the census reflected the Nation's growing status as a political and military power. As a result of the country's expanding global influence, the following areas saw their first censuses administered by the United States in the early 1900s:

■ Following its annexation in 1 898, Hawaii (where the local government took a census every 6 years from 1866 though 1 896) was included in the 1 900 census, which also had the first count of the U.S. population abroad (Armed Forces and Federal civilian employees, and their households).

• The War Department carried out an enumeration in Puerto Rico in 1899 following that island's acquisition from Spain in 1898 (there were periodic censuses from 1765 to 1887 under Spanish rule), and there have been decennial censuses conducted in Puerto Rico from 1910 to the present.

■ The U.S. Census Bureau compiled and published one census of the Philippine Islands following their accession by the United States in 1898; this census was taken under the direction of the Philippine Commission in 1903. (Under Spanish rule, there had been censuses in 1818 and 1876. The Philippine legislature directed in 1918, and the Commonwealth's statistical office began periodic enumerations in 1939. The Philippines became an independent republic in 1946).

■ The Isthmian Canal Commission ordered a general census of the Panama Canal Zone when the United States took control of the area in 1904; there was another general census in 1912 and several special censuses at various

4The National Archives Cartographic and Architectural Branch, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001,301-71 3-7040.

5For more information, see "100 Years of Data Processing: The Punch card Century." U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, January 1991.

6U.S. Census Office, Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890. Part 1.—Population. Washing, DC: Government Printing Office, 1892, p. xlviii.

The Frontier in American History. New York: H. Holt & Company, 1958, p. 1.


Measuring America

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